To my dear friends whose beauty and youth intersected as fleetingly as did mine and you, you deserved more
I wanted to take you out shoplifting
mascara, reenacting all the scenes from
Marie Antoinette. I wanted us to fall
back repeatedly into a bed of extravagant
dresses, eat really good chocolates, listen
to even better music, smell really good.
Is that too literal? I wanted to climb
the star-slick ladder to your mouth
and press my fingers to the site from which
your ideas entered the world ripe
and clattering with potential. I wanted
to slide my hand deep into the pocket
that held your phone, and when I pulled
my hand back I’d be able to crush
all your discomforts. I wanted to build
a fur cradle and in it pile all the velvet
we hadn’t worn in our youth because
we were going to day jobs or didn’t feel pretty.
I wanted to lace my boots to yours so that we
were facing each other forever and I wanted
to put my wrists on your shoulders and lean
my own shoulder into your wheel. Is that
shoulder queer? you’d ask and I’d say oh
yes, baby, this time it is. I wanted to look you
directly in the eye, which I’d never otherwise do
because if I looked you directly in the eye
you would see that I wasn’t very good,
rarely good, I was rarely decent enough
to do the day’s right things, but my god, when
I didn’t even believe in gods, I believed in you.
I wanted to catch our sleeves on a moment,
our best moment. I wanted to drink scratch
one last time, and laugh so dirtily
so pure of the grit that got us here, one last
big punk laugh at just the right volume
in your ear, my mouth just the right degree
warm soft solid believable. I never lied to you,
so when the world was ending and we should’ve
spent every single day trying to repair the damage
know it was true that you, you were so beautiful
I wanted to take the afternoon off and hold you
and feel the sort of things a herd of wild horses feels.
I wanted to eat a flat of small suns plucked from the crowns
of our predecessors. I wanted to touch each idea precisely
as you thought it, my finger skimming along the horizon
where meaning blooms into word blooms into action and
you. I wanted you to act against me and hard, continually
because we hadn’t much time left and this
is how I wanted to spend it dying.
We couldn’t feel gratitude, only relief
There’s Queen Anne’s lace and then there’s the larger
but hardly distinguishable, blister-inducing cow parsnip
and, all the more poisonous, giant hogweed. Most of us
couldn’t tell them apart. Those that could burned
their patches, scarring the lungs of their neighbors.
That’s what you wanted to hear about, isn’t it? Our plants?
Or maybe our birds, our warblers and phoebes. The rivers
we planted our feet in on hot days like we ourselves
could cattails become. As a child, riding in a car, looking
out at the green variegation, I had a vain longing gut
to eye. I wanted, I wanted. I leaned forward away from
all the disappointments I occasioned. I felt my body
sprawl, move slowly, seep.
Reaching down to brush my fingers over rough brachiopods
on the cliff wall in middle age, I would easily remember
being eye-level with them as that child. I could not then
wrap my head around the glacier that filled the valley to its
brim, nor could I now. Not until the next approached.
And wrapped its head around me. Wrapped its arms around
me. Sometimes I’d picture my mouth open in ice, and other
times I’d picture my face caved in with cold interiority. What
is an interior monologue if not the pressure of a glacier
Of course we thought we’d be heroes. Of course we thought
we’d shelter our neighbors, tighten our belts, change our ways.
It weighed on us. Daily, we woke up the same wet, confused
people we’d always been. No call or sword distinguished
any single one of us. We imagined a future wherein we would know
our moment to be historical, and be on the right side of that history.
Here’s the kicker. We did live in the now. We thought we were
exiled, but there we were in the present moment, seizing
one day at a time, exactly those people who go with the tide.
One of my children spotted graffiti on the cliff wall, recent
teenaged hand. Look, a fossil, my child joked, and I laughed.
And then I said, you’d have to stay pressed up against this wall
for ages to record in it your affection for another person.
And my child nodded and our necks were like ferns waving
waiting to edge themselves into stone, clearer impressions
than we were people.