Void Unfilled

By George Bilgere
Featured art: Long Exposure Couple by Jr Korpa

I walk past Erin’s house at dusk
and there she is at her kitchen table,
working on her book about the Reformation.

She needs to finish it if she wants to get tenure,
but it’s slow going because being a single mom
is very difficult what with child care and cooking dinner
and going in to teach her courses on the Reformation,
which I can see her writing about right now,
her face attractive yet harried in the glow
of her laptop as she searches for le mot juste.

Meanwhile Andrew, her nine-year-old son,
shoots forlorn baskets in the driveway
under the fatherless hoop bolted to the garage
by the father now remarried and living in Dayton,
as Andrew makes a move, a crossover dribble,
against the ghost father guarding him, just as I did
when I was nine, my daddy so immensely dead,
my mother inside looking harried and scared,
studying thick frightening books for her realtor’s exam.

And although I hardly know Erin,
I feel I should walk up, knock on her door,
and when she opens it (looking harried,
apologizing for the mess) ask her to marry me.
And she will smile with relief and say
yes, of course, what took you so long,
and she’ll finish her chapter on the Reformation
and start frying up some pork chops for us

as I walk out to the driveway and exorcise
the ghost father with my amazing Larry Bird jump shot,
and tomorrow I’ll mow the lawn and maybe
build a birdhouse with the power tools slumbering
on the basement workbench where the ghost
father left them on his way to Dayton.

I will fill the void, having left voids of my own,
except that my own wife and son are waiting
down the street for me to come home for dinner,
and so I just walk on by, leaving the void unfilled,
as Erin brushes her hair from her face and types out
a further contribution to the body of scholarship
concerning the Reformation, and Andrew
sinks a long beautiful jumper in the gloom.

George Bilgere’s most recent collection of poetry is Imperial (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). His work is familiar to NPR audiences through his frequent appearances on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. He has received grants and fellowships from the NEA, the Pushcart Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the Ohio Arts Council. He lives and teaches in Cleveland, which has made him hardy and resolute.

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