Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Many Happy Returns by Jackie Craven

Long before periwinkles appear, life is hoed
into tidy blue rows on the 1040 I prepare
for the government. Radiators hiss and sing of dividends—
ordinary or qualified? Sometimes I fill notebooks
with leaning towers of calculations. Sometimes
I work in the pixilated glow of a MacBook Air—
miles of depreciations before I sleep.
I am teaching myself Excel. I am watching crocuses
push through mud. Shall I itemize on Schedule A or settle
for the standard exemption? Beyond my window,
a weeping cherry tries to bud. For the first time in years,
I see the blooms spread wings. Every spring I used to fly
to my stepfather who dozed in his swivel chair,
feet submerged in statements and invoices,
coffee-stained receipts, pages torn from ledgers,
cancelled checks, insurance claims, photocopies
of my mother’s obituary, numbers clipped and bound
with rubber bands. He struggled over line 45—
How can a minimum have an alternative?—
and I thumbed through sepia folders,
stirring dust and the scent of cigars, racing
against a deadline we could never meet
because he was born on April 15.
Neighbors brought balloons and a frosted cake.
My sister called from the kitchen—
Just file for an extension. Blessed be the IRS
for granting us more time.

Jackie Craven is the author of Secret Formulas & Techniques of the Masters (Brick Road Poetry Press, forthcoming summer 2018). Her chapbook, Our Lives Became Unmanageable (Omnidawn, 2016), won the publisher's Fabulist Fiction Award. Recent poems appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Spillway, and elsewhere.

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