Daughter Voice

‘He’s always inviting people, your father.
Some lady who – I think – works where you work,’
she says as I pace the chilly garage, dodge old oil stains

from the Buick they sold in ‘98. An hour ago, I peeled off
the visitor face, told my mother I was going out for milk,
only to hide here to listen for the landline’s ring

in bedroom and foyer, for the bisque handset lifted
from its cracked base. ‘I don’t know her. He acts
as if I’m supposed to know her.’
                                                            Should I

have stayed home? I didn’t and each day hid
myself away for the Thursday phone call,
summoned the daughter voice to soothe every one

of the day’s troubles: germ after germ that couldn’t be
boiled away or why her cousins hadn’t picked her up
for church or the pleasant lady she wishes

my father didn’t keep inviting over.
In a different decade, she’d be the one I’d call
to tell the story of the twice-life of these visits:

my mother’s surprise at meeting a stranger who teaches
at the same college where her daughter teaches.
The daughter who never visits, the daughter she misses.  

Janet McAdams

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