Poetry / Growing Up

Coming of Age

Oh, if only we had known
how soon the oceans would turn to foam,
dried seabed wisping into dust;
we become it, it becomes us.

A friendship like ours appeared so real
but its imprints could never harden to steel
around the words we once had sworn.
My hair once let long, now freshly shorn
with an old ax of yours, brandished in secret
once I knew I could never keep it.

I thought doing away with you would do me good,
the weightless ease of chopping dead wood,
the lapping of night wind slipping away,
this lensed shroud lifted from my wet face.
Instead, this steering wheel sears my hands,
and the rearview glints with a disfigured man,
an insect belly-up in soiled bedsheets
lost in the haze of the unlit street.
This street we used to drive.

What tired fables I once would contrive,
on wiry wooded paths, from junction to bend,
on green-and-white blankets at trail’s end,
on mountains of mulch, furry with moss,
through fields of prairie grass, thin like floss.

Now, my fascination drags like a pearled train
in mud so human, so fresh, blood-stained,
past the liquor pond and its peppery brine
that I now wash my hands of; it’s not mine.

Oh, if only we had known
that eighty years would wither to bone
and funerals could be watched from beyond the grave
and from umbrellas, we could again emerge onto the stage.

And so, I’ll clog the craters in time and let its smoke blacken me.
I’ll let it fill every nostril, make every hair reedy,
my limbs a limp glue in the asphalt cracks.
Oh, if only we could just go back
to see the steam rise from the harbor, street lamp lit,
before I knew I could never keep it.

And if only we had recognized
the gem-strewn steeple holding us in holy time
before the scroll is undone, this lensed shroud torn
to expose my wet face, contorted and worn.

I’m sore of this game, this ladder draped across a cliff,
the sand there to catch me, there to swell, to lift.
I’m sore of this tapestry, its enslaved golden hook
looping my string into taut patterns, willing the world to look
and have them say, I see, I understand.
The sole witness being the broken hand
severed in secret in those yellow fields I choked
with your ax, those pruning branches I chopped, flames I stoked
with your blade. Oh, I wanted to give this ragged ache a name.
I wanted you to understand me the same.

But the disfigured man still stands in my periphery,
you, the backseat sleeper, asking, Who is he?
and though we laughed and sped fast from that ripped seam,
we all knew what we’d seen

as the car left Earth on the downhill slope
and we eclipsed the moon, scummed with soap,
and we whipped the curve by the tooth-white house
that reaches through the trees, past a doe in a crouch,
waiting for its cue and leaping too late.
Another prop of this scenery to sedate.

Untouchable dream, the roof undone
and our arms out the side, sugarspun,
the night wind lapping on our shore,
dyed too indigo to view anymore.

At home that night, the feeling bathed me, twilit,
and oh, how badly I wanted to keep it.
The hilt of the rusted ax overgrown.
Oh, if only we had known.