Only classical music plays this late;
cadences float past us toward
the rear window, suspended
in the recycled air. Senses liquefy
like the pumpkin left in the trunk
that we meant to carve into some
porch decoration, a tea light inside
like a broken headlamp in the October
evening. Stop for fuel before we
hit the desolation, where hotels
are smoke-soaked and you have to ring
a bell for service, where blackened pines
mark the road to home or to some place else.


Her hands neatly folded in her lap
like wedding napkins, not in prayer
but in discreet listening; diamond
ring loose around a bony finger,
purple veins visible through thinning
skin like a drawing under tracing
paper. Standing, long fingers
envelop one another. Reciting

the Nicene Creed, she unfastens
and examines her clip-on earrings,
showing them to me and raising
her eyebrows. Porcelain hands
receive the body of Christ
and follow with a polite declining
of the wine from the shared chalice
and a tactful sign of the cross
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—
and a re-tying of her floral scarf.
Kneeling, she smooths her sweater;

each garment sensibly coordinated
like vestments, her fuchsia brooch fit
for a royal family supper. She points
a foot and whispers,
You know, I bought these pink
shoes the day after Father’s Day
in 1985. I remember because
it was raining and I couldn’t
find a place to park at the mall.
She stands and slides the hymnal
between us: Sing with me.
The singing is my favorite part.

SUSAN ELLIOTT BROWN is a first-year PhD student in poetry at The University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Writers. She is the winner of the 2014 Joan Johnson Award in Poetry, and her poems have appeared to or are forthcoming in Alehouse, Measure, Ampersand Review, and Atticus Review, among others.