Saturday, 22 May 2021

After Twenty Years, We Stop Giving Each Other Cards

by Cati Porter

Because what’s the point? It’s only paper and ink,
sentiments written hastily out of a perceived obligation,
and always with a degree of trepidation—because, 
what is there really to say when your 
infant has just thrown up on your sweatshirt
toddler has just thrown his Hot Wheel car at your face
grade schooler still needs homework help 
so you are late leaving for dinner
tween has just been caught smoking pot
(and really what is there to do about that
except keep mum about your own
pot-smoking days, how you used to clean your house
with the curtains drawn, inhale hard from the bong,
light a candle and crank up Pavarotti, or the B-52s)
and now tween-turned-teen is a full-fledged adult 
who still lives in your house and eats your food
and your youngest, the one you thought might be an artist
or an architect, is a sophomore in high school 
and failing, and smoking pot too, 
and your oldest’s girlfriend has moved in with you— 
and you have just moved from your old, beaten down house
where every ding or smudge on the plaster lathe walls, the carpet, 
a souvenir from those days where you believed in everything, 
where you wanted and that wanting was a thing 
you could taste in the air of that house
and even the toilet with its blue branding
on the rim proclaiming only its maker 
was a harbinger of what was to come: Wellworth,
that in your head every time you read it
reminded you that good things are well-worth the wait,
so that here you are, nearing the half-century mark, 
and your husband now able to legitimately order off the senior menu,
and he has bought you the house you have always wanted,
the one with stairs, and wooden floors that creak 
so that you learn the sound of each other’s footsteps 
so that you know which of you is coming up those stairs,
but in the clearing out of your old bedroom before that old house
is sold to someone new, to begin again,
you find at the back of the closet that card from your 15th anniversary,
and though there have been anniversaries since, and still to come,
you are grateful for the waiting, and the gift
of that find, a token of years spent, for this—

* * * * *

Cati Porter has been writing and publishing for three decades. Her most recent poetry collection is The Body at a Loss (CavanKerry Press, 2019). She lives in Inland Southern California with her family where she runs Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry and directs Inlandia Institute, a literary nonprofit. You can find her on the web at

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