Marie Howe

The News

The girls in their booster seats behind me are playing mermaids.
Hey mother mermaid! they call out

I’m listening to the car radio and the senator breaking down on the senate floor,
speaking against his party’s nomination to the United Nations,

and I say Yes my mermaids, what is it? as the senator says, My colleagues tell me
Don’t worry, but I think of my children, and my grandchildren

(And here he actually begins sobbing)
                                    We’re dead! the girls shout from the back
You’re what? I say, Dead! they call out laughing. Be sad.

Boohoo, I say. They’re dead. I’m sad (Still listening to the senator)
and then a sighing sort of singing comes from the back seat,

Woooooooooo, we’re spirits, the girls sing
– high and sweet as the lost song of a lost race – 

and then – Now we’re back!            Laughing, and dying
and coming back maybe half a dozen more times

before I pull into their preschool driveway and stop.
This chamber, the senator says, is ominously quiet.

Then one of the girls says, Now let’s just one of us be dead.
And the other says, Ok.

And the first girl says, Who? And the other says, You.
and the rest is history.