Patricia L. Hamilton

Perfect Afternoon

My bedroom windows open to a breeze stirring the curtains,

I sprawled on the floor, sixth-grade science text pushed aside,


listening to the Mamas and the Papas proclaim undying dedication

to the ones they loved in harmonies lush as the sweet spring air,


the record-player needle emitting a staticky pop every time it hit

a scratch on the vinyl. From the kitchen came the sizzle of hot Crisco


as the aroma of frying chicken, crisp and golden, filled the house,

the rhythmic thwack of my mother’s knife promising potato salad.


Last year the evening news had gut-punched us night after night

with the unthinkable—crumpled bodies felled by assassins or soldiers.


But the television screen was like a window: I could gaze at the view

or look away, taking comfort in the artifacts of family life around me.


Now, as a blue jay squawked outside in the tender-leafed mulberry tree,

and clumps of white alyssum wafted their honey through the windows,


the world’s din seemed remote. Contented, I tapped my foot

to the exuberant music’s percussive beat, unaware that all too soon


ringing phones would shatter our deep sleep, and I would start learning

sorrow’s slow, aching melody, my heart pounding in the dark each time


I strained to decipher my father’s murmur, my mother’s reply,

wondering whose death had ripped an unmendable hole in the universe.

Patricia L. Hamilton is a Professor of English in Jackson, Tennessee, and is the author of The Distance to Nightfall. She won the Rash Award in Poetry in 2015 and 2017 and has received three Pushcart nominations. Her most recent work has appeared in Slant, The Ekphrastic Review, Plainsongs, The Poetry Porch, and Prime Number Magazine.

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