I. Buena Vista, Co.
I didn’t cry for almost six months,
Knowing how you would have laughed,
Called the tears unlike me.
I just stared at the phone
While a near-stranger read me the article,
Shock sharp as a baby’s scream.
You might even have laughed
At my staggering into the desert,
Teased me about the cliches I couldn’t help:
For hours I saw nothing but stunted trees, sand,
Mountains far beyond my reach,
And, too late, the creek bed I stumbled into.
I was lost by then,
The house far back over a horizon I thought would stay flat,
Princeton Peak really no closer than when I’d started.
I sat on the smooth pebbles of the wash,
Waiting to be reported too long gone,
Or for rain, or to die.
Maybe I was waiting for you.
II. Lewisville, Tx.
Four years to the day,
I face the lake from a distance,
Knowing I should stand in the brush where you died,
Or dive right in, commune with your Baptist soul.
I’m not moving.
I still feel small inside, curled up tight, barely alive.
The air is summer-sticky, bitter with heat . . . .
But I’m trying not to think about that.
Even after they brought the dogs, it took them two days
To find the place where you’d pitched your tent,
Swallowed your hoard of pills.
I’m not moving at all.
I still see you, who loved madrigals and dancing.
You, spinning me in a laughing arc
Until I thought I could let go and know flying,
The cool explosion of hitting water.
But I’m not moving at all.
III. Carbondale, Il.
Your brother, on the phone:
Today someone asked me what I’m going to do.
I said live. They all act like that’s so brave.
There’s no big empty here —
Between the houses, malls and trees,
I can’t get lost.
Even the county roads turn back on themselves
In a way I’m sure is perverse.
I can think about you now without wanting to scream.
And the two brothers, bullets in their brains
Trying to open the door you slammed behind you —
I’m learning how to remember them, too.
If someone doesn’t stay to look at how it’s different without them,
Then there’s no meaning at all. I can do that much, right?
The lakes here all have oddball names:
Devil’s Kitchen, Little Grassy.
Driving over Crab Orchard,
I always flash on what you said about Texas lakes:
How there’s so little water around, all the towns start frothing,
Insist on laying claims:
Dallas, Lake Dallas.
Lewisville, Lake Lewisville.
I wonder if you hear us,
Talking about getting to tomorrow
Like it’s all that’s left to do.
I know he thinks about it,
Taking that gun and just going.
Maybe it feels easier to him,
With you already gone ahead to mark the trail.
This poem is about a friend who committed suicide at 20. I meant it to be for him when I began writing it, but it ended up being for his older brother, who appears in the third part.
It’s also my first direct addressing of a theme that weaves through a great deal of my work: how people and places meet — and sometimes collide — and change one another.
This poem appeared in The New Jersey Review of Literature.