Family package


By Patrick T. Reardon


I left my phone

on the back seat of a taxi,

and, when I borrowed one

from a cornrowed woman, gap-toothed,

the voice answering was

my dead Mother telling me

it served me right.


It was just a mistake, I said.


Your fault, she said from her ashes.

You were wrong.

You hurt your Father and me.

When will you learn?


I learned my lesson,

so did we all,

especially my brother,

until he’d had enough of lessons

and lessoned himself at his back door

in the snow rain of a 3 a.m. Saturday.


He called me from his ashes on my new phone

to say I was lost.


Yeah, I know.

I want you to find me, wherever you are,

but I don’t know the address.


I wanted him to see me that night

when I am in leftfield

in the high school yard

as the dusk deepens to dark,

running away from the plate,

my arms out fully,

my eyes awkwardly to the sky,

my fingers reaching,

the ball never arriving.


My brother and I,

cassocked, surplice boys bowing

for the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar,

fake Latin syllables we don’t understand.


I left the book of my life

on the back seat of a taxi

where a girl of six found it

and, unable to read the handwriting,

made it the Bible of her bookshelf,

the sacred mystery,

bleak and weighty in its chaos,

a formula beyond all divining.





Patrick T. Reardon




This poem originally appeared in Down in the Dirt on 2.2.20.





Written by : Patrick T. Reardon

For more than three decades Patrick T. Reardon was an urban affairs writer, a feature writer, a columnist, and an editor for the Chicago Tribune. In 2000 he was one of a team of 50 staff members who won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. Now a freelance writer and poet, he has contributed chapters to several books and is the author of Faith Stripped to Its Essence. His website is

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