The Common Answer

She grew up in a single-wide
On county forty-three;
I doubt you’d even notice it,
It wasn’t much to see —

I knew her first in Sunday School,
In summers, long and hot,
With each of us as dressed up as
Our families ever got.

Then both of us were singers:
With our families, in a line,
With her voice even louder than
The ringing sound of mine.

Her mother died when she was ten,
Of what’s called ‘complications’ —
Her uncle took to alcohol
And other allegations —

She never went to college, never
Traveled with that voice;
And when I moved, I knew she stayed
Because she’d little choice.

We’d kept in touch for several years,
Through many ups and downs;
She’d stayed out county forty-three,
While I’d done cities, towns —

I had been ill: once better, I
Set out for wealth and fun:
The men she’d married weren’t nice,
And children she had none.

When dusting, just a week ago,
I found a hymn-book worn
From back in days of Sunday School,
Its pages frayed and torn —

And thought about her, wondering,
And looked her up online,
And messaged her, to just say “Hi,
How are you, I am fine…”

She messaged back, and we began
To trade our stories, news;
I showed her pictures of my life,
All of the family views —

But her life had been bleak, I thought.
With little in the way of gain,
And much of loss, and obstacles
To everything but pain.

I asked her if she ever thought
About the things that we were taught,
Or ever felt that word or song
Had steered her any, ever wrong.

And she said, “No. I’m happy, true.
I still believe what we believed.”

What I had called, in passing word,
‘The common answers we received –‘

And she said, “You’ve been very blessed.
Do you find solace still back there?”

I said, “I do, but find at times,
I tend to camp out in … despair.”

She laughed (or lol’d, I guess)
And said, “Well, Owen here’s the deal.
You live up in the city, while
I still I live out here near Cordele.
I’ve only known the life I’ve known,
The things I’ve seen, the way I feel…”

“Yes, fate is cruel and life is hard,
And much that’s good, we bury:
And through the treasured times of life
We run, when we should tarry —
We know that love is all there is,
Though circumstances vary:
But common answers aren’t wrong
Just ’cause they’re ordinary.”

I thought about what she had said,
That night before I got in bed,
And asked my wife, who knows such things,
What all she thought of that.

I looked at her in silence,
In those dark and loving eyes,
Then she said, “You were singers,
And a good song never dies…”

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