Five years after
she walked out,
leaving me behind
with a drunk dad
and no way to reach her,
Mom called,
not to see
how I was doing,
but to see
if I’d give her
“52nd Street,”
the Billy Joel album
with “My Life.”

“Can you do that?” she asked.
“For me? Your ‘ole mom?”

I took a sip of warm pop.
I heard her shake out pills.

Rolling over on the bed,
I looked at my records,
skinny strips of color
in stacked milk crates,
filling a wall with pattern.

“I don’t know,” I said.
“Ask someone else.”

She swallowed
and cleared her throat

“My god,” she cried.
“You’re so selfish.
Just like him.”

Setting the phone down,
I walked to the window
and lit a cigarette.
She kept wailing,
blending with the drift
of car radios
on the street below.

Image credit:Lee Campbell

Ann Kammerer lives near Chicago, and is a recent transplant from her home state of Michigan. Her short fiction and narrative poetry have appeared in several publications and anthologies, and her collections of narrative poetry include Yesterday's Playlist (Bottlecap Press 2023), Beaut (Kelsay Books 2024) and Friends Once There (Impspired, coming summer 2024). Visit annkammerer.com