Tuesday 8 December 2020

Sweet Time

by Elya Braden

It’s 6 a.m., dark and drizzling, the cold
riding the warm smoke of our breath
like a virus, invading our cilia, icing our lungs.
Running with my best friend over black roads
glistening in the golden, bobbing circles
of our headlamps, we fling our daily troubles
into this shared dawn, giving feathers and flight
to the stones we carried in our solitude.

Suddenly, she slows, stops. She died, my friend
gasps, the memorial service is tomorrow.
Rain sparkles her cheeks. A dog barks.
I pluck a pine needle from her shoulder.

Who? I ask. Polly, she answers.
Our daughters go to the same pre-school.
I’m shaking and it’s not with cold,
or it’s more than cold.

How? I ask. What I want to ask is:
Could this happen to you? To me?
What I want to know is: It won’t.

Her cold turned into pneumonia. The doctor
told her to rest, but with three kids
a husband who travels, what could she do?

She collapsed at the supermarket.
They rushed her to the hospital,
but it was too late.

I hold my best friend and let her cry.
I don’t know her Polly, but I know so many
Pollys, mothers running faster and faster
on the treadmill of their to-do’s,
praying for the energy to not slow down,
to not fall off. We stand rooted
to the ground— two birches,
branches entwined to brave the wind.

How we stretch these moments like taffy.
Time all lazy and sticky and slow. Time,
the plus and minus that beats our hearts.
Time, which we measure, slice and wrap
into small sweets we palm and dole out
to husbands, children, bosses.

Each night, we fall into bed empty-handed,
our mouths watering for a taste, pink and
lingering, of our own sweet time.

* * * * *

Sweet Time was originally published in KYSO Flash (2018).

Elya Braden took a long detour from her creative endeavors to pursue an eighteen-year career as a corporate lawyer and entrepreneur. She is now a writer and mixed-media artist living in Los Angeles and is Assistant Editor of Gyroscope Review. Her work has been published in Calyx, Causeway Lit, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Prometheus Dreaming, Rattle Poets Respond and elsewhere and has been nominated for Best of the Net. She is the author of the chapbook, Open The Fist, recently released by Finishing Line Press. You can find her online at www.elyabraden.com.

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