Let's sit here all day, not speaking of things for things have a way of pulling loose strings, when what I want is to extend my two legs, and maybe reach for your knee and lean just like the shadows do
The church bells rang and the cardinals flew An altar of blood keeping the two Safe across the city's walls Until their final dying fall. And later, the violin player starts and fails to make a woman from gut and hair, of air and longing
but I'll give him points for trying. For Love, what is deeper than Death but You? And how weak the word that wants Your flesh but bends before such broken bread.
They pulled you out between White’s Mill and Currier Street, about a mile from the bridge where you parked. The river is warmer than it was in March when everyone was looking and putting up signs and later on, looking less, flooding to Facebook to report what your mom said, connecting the fallout to fashion a lede. You were “Missing Athens Man.” Knives in the wood after a knife-throwing act. A stain of old pain in the rearview reflection. How come we hadn’t learned our lesson? You left your keys in the ignition. There was goodness there. In the swell. Everyone shouldering hope and doubt on competing scales. It seemed the proof you were looking for: if life has worth, people will fight for it; if people fight, living is worth it. It made sense, on its face. You had a great smile. I could see your mother’s hope in it. You wore your hair long and it made you look vulnerable. You probably would have hated this, but “sweet” is the word that springs to mind. This world is hard on gentle boys. And I keep trying to recall if the pizza delivery guy had long hair or short, the week before Christmas we got pizza at work. Why should I want to put you there? What could it possibly matter? Your mother said she’d come for you. Just hang tighter. Once the weather turned, I ran the section of the bike path that bends to the river over and over and over again, pacing myself to its muted rhythm. Its crooked spine, infrequent people. The birds were sharp—soft—both together, all at once. The wind in the grass was a woman’s dress, a mouthful of milk on a taut clothesline. My son plays baseball on the fields nearby. And you were a rustle in the thirsty brush, drawing my thoughts as my feet held the line because I saw the men huddled along the bank— sonar trawling, sirens off. The water flashing its teeth in the sun. There and back, I took the bridge, culling the edges with my eyes, reading the gaps between the lines, seeing the eddies bubble and froth, disturbed by the dead limbs, big rocks, uprooted trunks. Trespassing on something that wasn’t mine. Even now, not sure what I’m doing here. But you see how absence becomes abyss and you think God, how do they carry this? I absorbed you. Not impulsively, not all at once, but incrementally, with the herd. We swallowed you in desperate sips. You sank in, like tea, leaving leaves at the end. An archetype with a face pulled from the caves. The lost son. Come back. Your brother has killed the fattened calf. For you. Come back. Won’t you hear? And now I want to take your pictures down, so that she won’t have to. I want to hug my children tighter, preserving their shape in a better forever. We never learn. It never makes sense. You needed more time. Pain is a bridge. The paper said you left a poem behind. It’s April now. Winter was hard. The lilac is late this year.
He knew by the way she touched her hair. She couldn't keep her hands off it. Her need to play with it was constant and compulsory. Grasping it. Cinching it. Tucking it. Twirling thicker and thicker tendrils around her fingers. Flipping the whole mass across a shoulder. The itch to groom was so naked and obvious it seemed like a parody of a Buzzfeed article: 20 Signs She's Into You. It was also effective. He was mesmerized. Entranced. Emboldened, even. They were young, and new, and this couldn't be love. But that didn't stop them from experiencing the most excruciating sweetness in the other's presence, as their mundane conversation became the lines to a play being writ on the fly. They felt foolish. They felt stunned. Between bursts of words, they kicked a small ball back and forth, some part of them understanding that this was the privilege and the risk of youth: to kick a ball that was a stand-in for something else, too large and mysterious to name. For an hour, they kicked the ball by a pond choked with lily pads, until they said goodbye. And later, as their heads sank onto their respective pillows, the day assumed a permanent shine in their minds, forming a shape as celestial as any sphere. The way he'd flipped the ball between his toes and insole, a gesture as quick and nimble as a warbler's flashing cut between cattails. The way she laughed in the face of the wind, looking like the heroine of a nineteenth-century novel he'd been forced to read for school last year, liking it more than he'd let on. How he'd looked down from time to time, keeping the ball too long underfoot, as if needing that time to catch his breath. The whiteness of her underarm as she'd lifted her hand to her hair, one more time--again. So that later--many hundreds or thousands of nights removed from that day--they would lie in beds separated by hundreds or thousands of miles, next to people they hadn't even known that summer, and felt, with an ache so profound it threatened to smother, that memory was the fourth dimension, a construction so nearly perfect, if always incomplete. Thinking that time was a thicket of hair, passing through unknowing fingers, as they slid into their different dreams.
How many shades of green are you? How many shades am I? Every birthday is a balancing and a reckoning and a chance to proclaim: I will stay as earnest as the child pushing her stick into brackish waters in order to make all the waves that I can Longing to hear the leaves of my trees whistle and tremble in a rapt applause as light breaks free of its chain of clouds and I teeter on the wings of a beautiful fall
Where does the water stop and the cloud begin? Where am I in here?
I learned to love contradiction from you. Oh, not directly. We never ventured into such abstract country. (There were landscapes and portraits to see.) But nonetheless, it came down to me in drips and drabs: the unbearable strain of loving while letting expectations be. And now I'm trying to walk that line. Whether you believe this or not, Mom, I'm a goddamn contortionist here. Inching my way along the seams: That love can be true, if also a lie. That love is blind, recording all. That love deforms in its wish to preserve and to protect.
I let it get to me. Too much, I bet. I am still such a child, see. Yours. And not. And you are my mother. But you were someone else, first. We are still trying here. And maybe that's enough. Maybe that's as much as we can hope to ask. Because I have this horrible feeling, that if I tried any harder-- I could break us both.
With every song in the car pulling too wide or too near And so I stop to watch the dragonflies darting about their sanctuary of light Not so frantic that they don't pause, mid- spin And I with them Feeling less and less like the baby bird for whom the sun is too flush and the moon too thin Pushing up its tiny mouth for the plump of a worm or a gulp of hot air