still life

But recently, I have found myself slowing in my hallway, sometimes even stopping in front of one [of the photographs], and what I feel—when I begin to focus on an image—is annoyed. They are so silent. I can see my mother, for example, when she was young, in her thirties, and then later, hugging half of me from the corner of the picture once I had become a teen. Why can’t I hear her? What does her voice sound like? And why didn’t I know, until this very moment, that I can’t summon her cadences, her pitch; that I can’t predict for you the exact places in her stories where she will stop to take a breath? It isn’t just that I can’t assign words to my mother’s voice. It’s more that the sound of my mother cannot exist without her here.

—from “Still Life,” published in Crab Creek Review, 2010 (forthcoming)