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All You Know

Over time you discover all you know
fits into a thimble. Over time
you begin to see the folly
of the vow, the well-made bed,
you hear your mother
all these years later saying not
for nothing
in your ear. Where you began
you end, silly girl, it isn't a maze
but a circle, over time you see
what everyone first warned about,
see they were right, the both/neither
of rumor, the spoken for,
the compromised. Over time
it's as clear as a dragonfly in spring,
as pollen from a ghost maple, birthdays,
birth orders, the four corners of most
but not all rooms. As the nose on your face,
your mother again, reminding you
to get out of bed—good morning,
—phrases that knit together
as they spin apart. You remember,
but over time you unknit, spend hours
woven by unseen hands, you can't believe
in the cloud, in worship or school-yard play.
Over time what you learn fits on the point
of a needle, something requiring
your protection, recalling the blue warmth
out of the body into common air.
You can't be sure all of it won't go,
everything you thought was true, the sweat
that gathered some evenings
on your father's brow, what the world
knew of him, what went unnoticed
or covered itself over on purpose—
how can you tell the difference? A manner
of repose in all things
, he taught you that,
leaning back on the legs of a kitchen chair,
catching the cinder-block wall
with the hard part of his skull, then easing
onto the rounded cradle of the spine.
And this image in which he still moves—
isn't it good it stays, isn't it
a miracle it holds
all you know?

Carol Ann Davis

The Southern Review

Spring 2013

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