When Everything Was Right

The beautiful mother who loves him,
he’s well fed and confident, the world a ripe
watermelon to be cut open and eaten.
A decent start, if only he’d heeded—

He watches as she applies her lipstick, then blots
it. A single string of pearls. A black dress.
You’re so pretty, he says, not yet knowing
another word for beauty.

An old man in a small town shop recalls
her name as if fifty years were a day,
a glint in his eyes. An old yearning tugs
at him. Oh, yes, he says, I remember her.

The boy comes home from the movies
with a dime stuck up his nose—never mind
how. His mother with a flashlight and tweezers
carefully plucks it out. 

first published in Red River Review