The Good Life
She can’t follow the accumulation.
She looks from the pictures to the floor,
to the books.
Her eyes glance down the hall, unfocused.
They have lived here longer than anywhere
as two people.
They have lived as two people nearly
as long as one.
And that too is shocking.
As if she is too young and stupid to see
how narrow and grave the road through life is.
As if at the end of the hall there is a house
full of the choices that she did not make. Things she did not collect.
On the wall the photos from Madrid
remind her how blue the sky is in a country she don’t live in.
It is a snapshot, a place left raw
and tastes sharp like a stone on her tongue.
The way memory tastes.
When thinking about how many people there are in the world,
she says, sometimes her throat closes.
All those people touched and untouched,
gathering together, coming apart again,
filling bookshelves and painting the nursery.
Filling a life with the things they can hold on to
and putting into those things what is owed back to them.
Proof of their very own existence
in the painted walls and the banged up cupboards.
I can’t stand it, she says. It makes her scream.
Her lungs so dry they crackle like leaves blown against a building
that sits on a dead end,
in a city
on a planet
in a universe
she’ll never visit again.
While I understand it is a savagery
that over time will be
and that it grows from
I still find it terrifyingly poignant
to watch a shrieking toddler
chase a pigeon
with such ferocious determination
as if the world
and all our little helpless
were his to
Summer Lake, Late Nineties
It was not the trees or the light
or the sound of the leaves underfoot.
It was not the lake
or the moon or the joints we had smoked.
It was not the child’s swing set
or the giggle of girls when their bras were undone.
It was not the sound of sex
the hush and moan of desperate release.
It was the simple conversation we had
of all the things we were going to do and be
before we were even anything.
It was the slow creak of the swings,
the whispered voices
or the occasional braying cackle
that split the night and betrayed our hiding spot
that let me know,
in a way one shouldn’t know
that we were there,
alive in that moment,
and we were young,
so very very young
even though we pretended we were old.
So young that we could still hear the
steady throb of our hearts,
the shiver of bones that stretched
in skin tightened by the lake water.
So horribly breakable young that
some of us will not survive and
some of us will stay this way.
Too young to realize that
this time was,
not going to last.