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Steve Henn

Taking the Kids to See their Mother’s Paintings

I was the one insisting

decisions ought to be made

about which pieces would be

kept, which sold—and—as 

Dave at the gallery reminded me—

at what cost? So we got into

the minivan, the oldest next to me,

the two middle children in the middle

and our youngest boy in back, and

rode silently through the Winona stoplight,

down Pierceton Road to the Blue Pearl

and stood around in the first room

of the shop while Dave told our kids

all the things he’d already told me

about the situation of their mother’s

paintings—I noticed the one

I had stared and stared at when I

came out earlier had disappeared—

after that first visit, I pulled away alone

in the Sienna and cried all the way

back home, but this time there were

no tears, not from the kids nor me,

though Dave choked up once talking

about how she’d almost turned the

corner into making a living with

her art alone, it shames me,

how close she came without my help,

not even really taking after it seriously

until we split, which also suggests

I was a problem, and I remember

in those last weeks we’d talked about

how with me taking the kids all weekdays

now, she’d have lots of time to paint,

to make it, to be okay, and she sort of

circled her head around instead of nodding,

said, “. . . yeah, really,” as if she wasn’t

quite sure, as if perhaps she had 

something else planned.

Steve Henn wrote Indiana Noble Sad Man of the Year (Wolfson, 2017), two previous collections from NYQ Books, and Guilty Prayer, a chapbook forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing in spring, 2021. Find out more at

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