There were black flies buzzing about my head, when you and I gave a slight wave of recognition. I haven’t seen you in a long while. I’d really been hoping never to see you again- now that we were done with college, and upon leaving we mutually decided not remark any sort of goodbye. So it was, that we’d passed from each other’s lives.
But in this unexpected encounter, we have ruffled the undergrowth of the land I’d now decided to reclaim in peace. It was where I’d laid out to dry the spot cleaned fibers of my youth, and shook out the dust against the side of the old college apartment.
I knew looks on my back, so I was twitchy, walking the hiking trail stalked by my old friends- the benevolent and righteous observers.”You’d better get mean too boo”, and so it was then in my head the last time we spoke.
Since then I’ve become aware that calcified grudges are hardest to weed from the garden.
We were all just kids then, but old enough for my own paranoia to seep in to the fungal tissue of my brain, like spores which make good on their promise in age. In the growing moss on the spinal column, and raised heartbeat as we pass one another, there is a certain sickness in the growing mass which hopes to spread. But I know that no one will ever truly win this war of my own imagining.
I know there is no parade in the city, nor felled opponent at high noon in the desert.
Rather, there is a quiet field of black mushrooms, come up out of the ground, in the spot where our mutual hatred silently slipped past one day in July outside the library.
My name, like courage, held in the drifting lights
that faded away from the kitchen as we woke up.
Backseat, waiting for your train.
Strong aversions to how things had gone sour
held out like pockets on the eastern front.
I’d been here before, retracing felled ground, examining foothills and farmhouse nests, reclaiming my own life.
The one that had proven its foundation and faith.
A vaulted ceiling gathers soot like a well loved collection
of coffee mugs in the cupboard
and socks in the drawer.
Where the floor rattles a little with the switching on of the air conditioning, and where shadows and cracked pavement climb steep up Ironwood,
Is where summer peace grew like sea grass
holding in the shoreline, like you held me
On foggy nights,
Soft by the seaside,
For years of green.
Waves like the wild
You motioned to show me,
the courage in the calm of your mists.
In some ways, I wish college and traveling abroad wasn’t sold to us as such a unanimously great thing. That is not to say that I regret my choice to travel to Ireland. However, this notion that traveling abroad will be “the time of your life” is utter bullshit. I suppose it’s more difficult to convey the message, “Go see the world, and yeah we’re not gonna lie, people you love will die, your home may or may not fall apart, and you’ll feel like you have nowhere to go back to. But you’ll grow so much in such a short time”. The articulation would be difficult on any brochure.
So in one sense, I have no regrets. But in another I am forced to admit that I am not happy, and have not been in some time. I’ve had my good moments sure. But they have been hidden in blank stares, and late at night, my mind wanders to visions of you breathing oxygen when the mitral valve in your heart gives out. In that moment, I will check to if my hands are still smaller than yours in those final moments just as they were in those first. I think of my mother, and her disdain. I think of my younger brother, and his arms larger now than mine, with hints of topography in the scar tissue.
Heaney once called it “The Music of What Happens.” But how the fuck do you translate it? Am I expected to learn to sight read? But I’ll end the tortured metaphor where it lies. It doesn’t really matter, in much the same way that writing doesn’t matter. Not really anyway.
No matter what clever little words or enjambments I might conjure, I am left then with photographs taken of a young me with teeth I no longer have next to a snowman in Rhode Island. There is another of my brother and I amongst a pile of dead leaves. Wedding photos on Martha’s Vineyard after you both graduated the college I now attend. Kodak film. My mother’s camera she used in college. Acrylic sleeves in black faux leather albums. The frames are displayed on the mantle wherever it is you live now, or smashed by my mother on the front lawn you used to cut in the summer.