Park bench. Pine trees.
Bird calls. Dappled shade.
A cup of coffee.

The van, the only car
in the parking lot
on Monday afternoon.

I’ve walked away,
but I can still hear
my daughter yelling
and kicking the seats.

We used to come here
when she was a baby,
early in the morning
to let her mother sleep.

And if I had thought about it,
I would have expected her to grow
sullen, distant, full of grievances,
not following me, yelling,

until, claustrophobic, I have to leave.
Is this the cry of every parent?
I didn’t think it would be
like this?

And should I write this?
When she’ll read it someday?
When you will? Why?
It’s not the truth of our family.

just as if I would have stopped
after the first stanza
that would not have been
the truth either.

There were birds and pines.
There was a bench.
I was there, drinking coffee,
she was there, yelling.

I don’t know where you were.


Joe Mills is a faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has published six collections of poetry, most recently Exit, pursued by a bear.

James Conant was an illustrator and photographer who passed away in 2015.