Empty Frames

to my mother Elizabeth M. Hooker
and in memory of J. Michael Soares

Perhaps you were right, not suffering such a loss
would make the day seem less like waiting for results
of a CAT scan—pacing the house,

checking each squeaky hinge or drippy faucet,
trying to prevent yourself from reminiscing
about such a tiny casket.

Maybe the empty frames
displayed among pictures from your honeymoon
to Hawaii or my high school graduation

wouldn’t be labeled with the milestones
you wished your first son had seen: Mikey’s Kindergarten graduation,
First loose tooth
, Remission.

Even as you scream as I leave you
to transport clients to appointments or recede into the embrace
of a strange woman, convinced each goodbye is our last,

I find myself agreeing with your confession
—unlike the boy I was,
sitting in the car across from you

the day you told me,
“If I could do it all again,
I'd never have kids.”

You had confessed this before, but it wasn’t until that day
my tears finally spoke what I could not say
that we both understood blame could be inherited.