H Street

by Jodi Angel

On our familiar drive from kindergarten,
my daughter wiggles the loose bottom tooth
under her index finger, smiling too wide and pushing
her tongue against the fencepost out of row.
Drooling drinks down her smooth chin to force
a liquid mouthful through the widening gap

her Tuesday spills out.
Five-year-old injustices,
who is not her friend today,
street signs read in sounds sss t op stop.
In sudden seriousness her silence turns my head.
Shelby tells me distinctly by green eyes like mine
despite her fatherís heavy brow,

Mom, I was sad when you were gone.

I blink slowly, memories crawling behind me
like lengthening shadows hooked to my heels.
We pass the Shell station bathroom
I lingered in last year.
She waited alone in the car, barefoot and four
with radio comfort and nickel candy nourishment
while I fed myself happiness by the spoonful.

I brake at the red light, struggling
for something to say.
Her clenched chubby fist taps my shoulder
at a passing volkswagen. slug bug,
she says.
The comment hangs between us
like the rearview mirror reflecting late spring
sunshine.

She forgives more than she forgets.
Sorry is just a word
she hears, sharp s short o,
too empty in my moment full of grief.
She returns to rocking her tooth,
easing her childhood free,
while I change lanes and remember
my misguided desperation
leading us silently toward home.

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