On a golden June evening,
teens in dresses and suits
flaunt diplomas ribboned in red
from antennas and windows.
I am walking downtown
to visit my daughter in jail.
My firstborn, my treasure,
who dropped out of school,
failed to comply with probation,
fled to Miami to lie on the beach,
thinking, What can they do
to a girl of eighteen?
Sentenced to 30 days
on her return.
Now I am watching her cry,
and her bitter surprise
when, for the first time,
she sees me immune to her pain.
If those tears mean remorse,
as well as regret,
I am glad that she suffers.
My second visit’s the same:
her eyes swollen,
her face streaked with tears,
and no solace from me.
At least, in jail, she is safe from herself,
and from who-knows-what else.
No way to foresee her 21st birthday
at the fanciest restaurant in town,
no way to believe I would see her,
bibbed for a bucket of shellfish,
beaming at me across the table.
A moment, a pause,
A downpour along the parade route,
the Scottville Clown Band
playing Sousa on his front porch
to delight his new family:
his daughter, my daughter (good friends),
and his lover from England.
Everyone in our small town
knows that he readied a room just for her
adorned with the ficus he took
when he broke up with me.
She is in, I am out,
a mere visitor now.
Slogging home in the rain
I weep in the bath before dinner with friends
who troop down to the harbor
for the fireworks I deplore.
I sit in candlelight on my screened porch,
my two doped-up dogs
still panting and shaking,
to wait out the explosions
that once caused the terrified husky
to claw her way over the fence.
When the air hangs heavy
with gunpowder brimstone,
the festive crowd streaming endlessly by,
I see myself sitting alone,
holding my glassy-eyed dogs:
a picture of misery I’m glad he can’t see.
Sharon Whitehill is a retired English professor from West Michigan now living in Port Charlotte, Florida. In addition to poems published in various literary magazines, her publications include two scholarly biographies, two memoirs, two poetry chapbooks, and a full collection of poems. Her chapbook, THIS SAD AND TENDER TIME, is due out winter 2024.