A rosary that was my mother’s tucked in the glove compartment of his car and a copy of Exile on Main Street with instructions to play track 6 when he hit some lonesome desert highway. I love him so much my chest hurts, thinking of him riding off into his own life, me the weeping shadow left behind (for now). I know I’ll see him again but it’s ceremony we’re talking about after all— one growing up and one growing older both wild curses. A train blows its horn the light rising beyond the harbor, a dog barks from a car window and the nostalgia (always dangerous) hits me like a left hook. I’m trapped between the memory and the moment, the deal we make if we make it this long, the markers of a life, the small worthwhile pieces that rattle around in my pockets waiting to be set somewhere in stone.
What had been treacherous the first time
had become second nature, releasing
the emergency brake, then rolling backwards
in little bursts, braking the whole way down
the long steep drive. Back then
we lived on the top of a hill.
I was leaving—the thing we both knew
and didn’t speak of all summer. While you
were at work, I built a brown skyline of boxes,
sealed them with a roll of tape
that made an incessant ripping sound.
We were cheerful at dinner and unusually kind.
At night we slept under a single sheet,
our bodies a furnace if curled together.
It was July. I could feel my pupils contract
when I went outside. Back then I thought only about
how you wouldn’t come with me.
Now I consider what it took for you to help me go.
On that last day. When I stood
in a wrinkled dress with aching arms.
When there was only your mouth at my ear
whispering to get in the truck, then wait
until I was calm enough to turn the key.
Only then did we know. How it felt
to have loved to the end, and then past the very end.
What did you do, left up there in the empty house?
I don’t know why. I
don’t know how we keep living
in a world that never explains why.