After a sleep broken by dreams of fleeing
from infuriated siblings,
May wakes in a motel room
hoping the day will provide an occasion
for her using the word subterfuge.
She still has a day of driving alone
to join her sisters’ families at home
so, of course, rather than ordering
the mushroom omelet with toast ,
May could say to the waitress,
“I would like the subterfuge.”
Or she could protest the radio coverage
of the President’s economic policies
with “Subterfuge, nothing but subterfuge.”
Or, instead of using her credit card
when she stops for gas,
she could go in to the counter
and say, “Twenty bucks of regular subterfuge.”
But May’s saving the word as just right
for a few hours after she arrives.
May knows which of her five nieces
will hold back, seeming to study a rug,
while the rest of the family crowds the entry
to greet her late arrival with too-hearty hugs.
May knows she’ll be asked to add little
to the catching up at dinner
and she’ll be surprised
if this niece, sixteen, says anything at all.
May knows that later, when most are asleep
she’ll find the niece alone in the den,
deep in the keen comfort of some thick novel.
“Can we talk,” she’ll ask the girl,
“about why each of us thinks the family
a less than perfect subterfuge?”
She suspects the girl will look puzzled
and then whisper a perturbed “I’d rather read.”
But, hours of interstate still ahead,
May’s sure she’ll stay determined to ask.