February 28, 2018

Where are the words going?

Is someone burning them,

like the trash my parents incinerated

in a wire basket behind our house,

giving rise to an acrid smell,

or are they being heaped

like the piles of leaves

on the grassy common

where I became a seeker,

not wishing to hide but to hunt like Orion

with his three-star studded belt.

I’d count slowly

while Lee and Bobby, Cindy and Kathy

ran into the woods away from me.


Or do words

like meerschaum and prodigious

now live in caves,

burly guards protecting them

from the seekers? Away from the light

do they turn pale and brittle?

Think of it! All those words

in the extreme quiet of a cave,

and soon the world inside our minds

will grow quiet, too.


When words disappear

where do our apologies go, and our prayers?

Cindy, I’m sorry I stole your knife.

Please God, for Lee, keep cancer at bay.


When words disappear

how will I write of the rustle of snake

as we walked past asters and goldenrod

on the way to school,

or the man we came upon

sitting alone on a wall

singing a song beneath oaks and maples?


When words are gone,

will I draw a picture

of my friends scattering

like stars as the universe expands,

me counting to one hundred,

my face against the bark

of the Counting Tree?


Will you be able to tell

that those of us who played

on the grassy common

formed a constellation?

And will you see

how time is always stilled between the finding

of a secret space and being found, 

and how confident I was

that I would find my friends,

hiding behind boulders,

laughing in the ferns?


When words are gone,

how will you know

that every night

in my house on the hill

I’d lie in my bed, listening

to the tick of the radiator,

seeking my dreams?


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