Nothing but taillights for miles,
the red pain receding day by day
but still a low throb of grief.
My feet are not yet cold.
The air blues and cools, a heavy
velvet front of cloud descends.
This is the end of my waiting, I tell
myself day after day. This is the last.
Eventually, we turn, my mother said.
We go back to our bleak houses
and make do. A bitterness stiffens
our bones. Dignity, a consolation prize
from disappointment. She washes ghost dishes
at a lost sink. I am still outside.
But lo, an echo of engines murmurs
through this morning’s still-dark air —
A gleam of chrome in the moon, for a moment
a flank of that dark sedan and then
I know. A blaze of headlamp steers its cones
like the hands of a clock, and I see
the face, like a god’s, at a distance,
smiling, thinking twice, returning to me.
Jennifer Keith is a writer/editor for Johns Hopkins Medicine and plays bass for the rock band Batworth Stone. Her poems have appeared in Sewanee Theological Review, The Nebraska Review, The Free State Review, Fledgling Rag, Unsplendida, Best American Poetry 2015, JMWW, and elsewhere. Keith received the 2014 John Elsberg poetry prize, and was a finalist in the 2021 Erskine J. Poetry Prize from Smartish Pace. Her first full-length book of poems, Terminarch, won the 2023 Able Muse Book Award and is due to publish in 2024. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.