Content Warning: This poem references loss of parents, grief, mourning, and also non-specific references to childhood trauma.
I speak about my parents in the past tense. It is an old habit, Hard-won as the only measure I could take to build the distance I needed to feel alright, But this years-long practice Of linguistic intentionality Has served me well In more ways than this.
The early dawn light, Too strong and eager to ignore Even under the cover of sleep That calls to me like a languid lover Not ready to release me From my place by their side, Breaks apart the restless peace Of a night I hardly marked As I tumble from my bed In an admission of defeat And slowly begin a sour morning I had hoped would instead be sweet.
It takes only a moment, The space between whispers of wind On a scorching September day As the sun roasts pavement Two feet from where shadow shelters A wilting garden unaware Of how little time it has left, And the past mixes with the present. Fingers tracing rows and lines, Too large now to intertwine With the holes left in the table Made of rubber-coated steel, But still looking for something to hold.
A simple shifting of feet As movement changes from past my door To through it and I, Lost in some deep reverie, Move from past to present To catch a smile, warm and expectant, But betrayed by a furrowed brow. Hollow words meet hollow eyes, Or at least they should read as hollow. I can never tell if what I feel Is written as plainly on my face As it is written in my heart.
I cannot tell if I am haunted Or trapped in an endless reverberation. Words from the past beat upon my mind Again and again and again and again Until I cannot tell if they are newly repeated Or just bouncing around my head Like an echo that draws strength and volume From the walls I’ve put in place To keep words like these out.
The sullen thrum of a distant engine Rings in the cascading hills As they rise and fall on the horizon, Fading into the white haze Of a humid Wisconsin evening. A fire burns to cinders in the foreground And the stars silently conquer the curtain of night, Pinpricks of sunlight poking through the shroud That wraps a dying day, As we cling to the hope That we are as eternal as this moment.
The washed out yellow street light Standing sentinel at the corner next to my driveway Throws wild shadows on my shelves and walls That are occasionally stretched into thin waving lines As the bright pale blue light of the patrolling cop’s Fluorescent headlights roll past my yard. The silent murmur of the woods holds sway Broken by a passing car on a distant highway, The echoing sirens of a police car needed somewhere quick, Or the mournful blare of a train lost somewhere in the hills.
Every walk I take is a performance, A concert for next to no one With no instruments to speak of Save for the rhythm of my feet As one step follows another To the solid beat of my gait, Stride staying steady As I cross paths and walkways, Each one a measure In the score of my day.