Lost along the Way
Cathy Allman


I had a child’s necklace
with a mustard seed inside
a plastic hourglass.
But I remember standing in my bedroom
at only four, our first move,
the room empty, the closet bare,
the curtainless window 
with a numinous stream of sun.
On my hands and knees, I crawled
to every unfurnished corner, ran my hand
over the dusty floor, thinking the hourglass
that I couldn’t see in the dark would be found
after everything it could have hid underneath
had been removed.


In our new home, I lost Santa Claus.
There had always been doubt, 
but I could convince myself 
when the plastic doll 
and the toy piano appeared. 
The toy instrument had colored keys. 
I just had to push red, green, or blue,
and music. My dolly drank
water and wet her diaper. 


I lost my child body as breasts budded.
I lost the feeling that my parents loved each other.
I lost the ability to play with boys 
without worrying that they might 
try to kiss me.


I lost the notion of just running around the track 
to the notion of winning a race
to the notion of beating my last time
to the notion that someone was chasing me
to the notion that I couldn’t let them pass.


I lost living in my parents’ house,
I lost being home at midnight
to kissing Allen in our dorm.
l lost hiding behind a chair 
during their name-calling fights
to letting my boyfriend feel me up.
I lost their excuses for why problems
needed to be unsolved
to my own mysteries
to my own reasons.


I lost Paul to an actress he photographed,
that he’d always loved, though
she didn’t love him. He hung the framed shot
above his bed. I closed my eyes to love him.
He lost his parents’ marriage to his father’s 
biplane and his mother’s fear of flying.
First he said to me, You’re crazy,
then he said, he never said he loved me.
I believed him.


I lost Matt to another woman,
though he said he’d always love me
the night he left me for her. 


I lost my track career to a brick wall
when I crashed my car—
lost my unbroken skin and bones
to blood, screws, stitches, and scars.


I lost my maiden name to my husband
or maybe I just gave it up.
I lost my paying job to motherhood or maybe 
to the moves for husband’s corporate climb.


I lost our children to engagement rings,
weddings, prospects in other cities.


I lost my father 
to Parkinson’s dementia. 
I lost my mother to grief
and denial.


I lost Florida to his dying.
I lost my fear of old age.
I say, It’s all for a reason.
I lost my rationalizing
to believing
my mustard seed grew 
even if I never found it.

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