In Between

After the evening meal, the women
would congregate in
the kitchen to drown the dirty dishes.
While they worked,
their entwined voices were never at
a loss for words.
On the back stoop where I sat with
the men, I could hear
the tide of those competing mothers’
voices chorus into a wave.
A soothing ocean defying the silence.
Dematerializing into
silhouettes, uncles and Father begin
to vanish, betrayed
only by the red tips of cigarettes.
In that pungent sizzle,
what passed for conversation was
mostly monosyllabic,
as if only the next shortest word
could complete their
observation about the weather.
What mattered more
was the texture of their voices
than the content.
Staring up at a sprinkling of stars,
up past my bedtime,
I inhaled the musk of the men,
pungent with the sweat
of their day spent at hard labor.
Held captive between,
I’d eavesdrop on the kitchen talk,
then focus my attention
outdoors, as sleepily wrapped in
a warm blanket of voices,
I waited for the rest of life to begin.


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