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20/20

Alison Thomas

for Ashley


I.Glasses

She sits up reading, nights.
Getting older now, but she hates
bifocals, preferring instead

the practiced flick of wrist,
like a pitcher curving the ball
towards home: switching off

reading glasses, distance glasses,
prescription sunglasses, close-up
glasses, vanity frames.

Bedsheet awash in spectacles,
she rolls over in her sleep, wakes
to discover another pair bent.

II.

She lost her husband to the D.C. summer,
heat smothering his heart until it swam,
a child in a sweater too woolen and large,
choked by the swelter, swamped in sweat

and pain. Dorothy had chicken pox that week,
it was summer, thick and humid air wrapped
itself around them like a third person
in the room. No one slept. The television

glowed blue and they lay together, mother
and daughter, collapsed limp-limbed on the bed.
She tried half-heartedly to keep the child's hands
from picking at the sores: pastes of baking soda,

patches of calamine as pink as cotton candy,
oatmeal baths. She rubbed the remedies on,
knowing they were useless, and Dorothy,

restless, feverish, picked them off again.
Blinds drawn, television on, lights off, supine.
It was summer. No one slept. Cried instead.

III.

She sits up reading, nights, squinting
through the latest pair of replacement
frames. Peripheral vision does not apply:
 

she can avert her eyes from the other side
of the bed, the empty space defined
by what was there. A temporary

tunnel vision. Her daughter is tall now, no small
white scars from pox burst open
fifteen years ago. She rubs her eyes,

clicks off the light, rolls over. Grief
sharp and tight is catching her again:
a filmy cataract, the blind side of her life.


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