Sue Miller

When you lived in that house on the square
with the postage stamp lawn and the rent
you paid on your credit card

the Laundromat was too far to walk
so you hand-washed your white shirt
in the bathroom sink
and hung it in the sun to dry.

Before you slept you ironed it stiff,
starch becoming the better part of valor,
needing its bravery to face the day.

Every morning there was the mirror:
the hair, the teeth to brush.
How difficult hygiene can become

when the sleep you need to get you through
that fourteenth hour on your feet
won't come

because you're used to a body
in your bed at night, not just the cat,
not the vast coolness of the linens
on the other side.

For your birthday you bought yourself a rose
even though you had to borrow a shovel
you somehow got it planted

and it thrived. And strangers
walking by stopped and cupped its blossoms
drank its scent and you felt these caresses
as though laid upon your own skin.

You bought a deep green vase at an antiques shop,
and braver than brave, you cut a tight bud, brought it inside.
Admit it. You were afraid it would wither.
But it lasted for days, for weeks, and opened full,

ripened yellow to pink, like the blush returning
to your cheeks. The burden of being alone lightened,
became a ferocity you clutched to your breast,
an anchor weighing in as home, where you made it.

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