In the Company of Question Marks


THE DAY STARTS with question marks
and a wish that I could stay home,
but better to go to work
than to fidget and dwell.
and, besides,
someone is counting on me.

At 7
I head out
lunch bag in hand
giving a hug and a goodbye kiss.

“Hope you have a smooth flight,” I say.

She has hours to linger
before going to the airport
and I hate leaving her
in the silent house
in the company of question marks.

“I’ll be fine,” she says.

* *

It’s 4 o’clock
before I hear anything
and only a few minutes after 4
that I get her text asking if I have.

She’s about to board her plane.

I tell her,
knowing she’ll now turn off the phone
and be confined to a seat,
people on either side.
Too many people,
too close by.
Alone and not alone enough,
traveling in the company of question marks.

* *

I RETURN to a quiet house –
5:30 and nobody else due in until very late –
and I lean heavily toward
skipping dinner, pulling the shades and going to bed shortly.

But on a day full of question marks,
and the only answer generating even more questions,
I come home to find
on the dining room table
the start of something.
A grin creeps across my face, the day’s first and only.


I make some dinner,
turn on a light,
don’t climb into bed until bedtime.

* * *

“It’s my favorite,” I tell her later.
She didn’t know that.
She tells me she started it
with someone else in mind to finish,
upon return.
Act of faith, I say.

Two weeks it sits.
Two weeks
I don’t touch it.
I don’t work on it.
I don’t rebox it.

I only take a photo
to remember
that on this day
something genuinely made me grin.


But we’ll need the table soon –
temperatures falling,
dinners moving inside.

And then, completely unplanned
on a day of good news,
ice cream sandwich in hand,
I pick up a piece
and put it where it goes.
And that’s the start.

It comes back to me
examining the pieces –
the little face, the little car –
how much I love this one,
and why.

Nights in a row now,
passing through,
I mess with it.
Maybe 5 pieces.
Maybe 10.

Working on a puzzle
the end of which I know
is comfort
when living in a puzzle
the end of which I do not know.

One of these evenings soon
I may actually sit.

* * *

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About Marilyn

Reading, thinking, listening, writing and talking about faith, creativity, ESL for refugees, grief and finding the story in a story. Student of Spanish. Foe of procrastination. Cheez-it fan. People person with hermit tendencies or vice-versa. Thank you so much for reading.
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