Robert Fanning is the author of American Prophet (Marick Press, 2009), The Seed Thieves (Marick Press, 2006), and Old Bright Wheel (Ledge Press Poetry Award, 2002). His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Atlanta Review, The Hawaii Review, and other journals. Currently, he is an assistant professor of creative writing at Central Michigan University.
Staying the Night
for Amy Judith Fanning
September 28, 1965-June 15, 2009
. . .the tangibles that survive us...
I want to touch everything she touched
yesterday: my fingers lingering on her shelves
and counter. I flip through the paperback
left half-read on the nightstand, inhale
the crumpled yellow hand towel near her
bathroom sink, breathe in the dust and dander
of her apartment air. My wife sifts a pile
of unpaid bills, lifts a framed photo, reads
an inscription on a birthday card. This home's
a sudden museum. From the living room, I hear
our daughter knock a glass thing over and giggle.
I move to save the breakables from wreckage
then remember: nothing can now be ruined.
We're the guests of someone gone. From a stack
of papers, I pull some brief note she wrote,
marvel at her slight, precise lettering. On her fridge
shelf, a tub of leftover spaghetti, an unfinished sandwich.
In a drawer the perishables sweat: a new head
of lettuce, a few pieces of fresh fruit. I choose
to eat the peach she chose from the grocery's
produce rows, not knowing it would outlive her.
Later, before we go to sleep in her bed, I see
a still life next to the kitchen sink: one white bowl
upside down, one fork, one knife, and beside the faucet
her unwashed drinking glass. Lifting the glass, I hope
to see her lipstick's usual pink wedge, scour for
a fingerprint, some smudge. I fill it half-full
with water, cover the rim with my lips,
turn it in a circle, slowly. This is how
I kiss my sister goodbye.