Here again. The way you used to
wake us – rouse us with that impatient stare.
A stubborn, boy-crazy, eighth-grader
you make the same requests. We say them
with you. Isn't this what happens
when some of us bring water to the dead?
This private shift to living only sometimes
with the living. Eight months among the missing
and you come padding back in your white socks
and jeans; specter of grief we locked away
before it made us more dry-mouthed and speechless
than our counterparts in dreams. Grief like light
encounters in a half-sleep: your moist face
in a morning mirror. Are you in
someone else's too? O, city of mirrors.
And how, each night you casually resume
at every threshold to every listing room
that awkward lean -- the one you would do
when you could not ask, but knew that we could help.
Your bony shoulder barely touching the wall;
your right foot crossing the other.
So much the pose of one who is
neither coming nor going.
It's difficult to know why we should wake.
Still, every day we rise like guardians
ex officio, like gate-keepers
to a city of passing shades -- each one
a new acquaintance with your face.
Each one a new petition for deliverance
of the innocent and quaking.
Copyright © 2007 M. B. McLatchey. All rights reserved.
Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award Special Merit.
Published in The Comstock Review, January 2008.