I pass a Sunday listening
to gray songs finger-painted fuchsia,
choosing photos of this little girl—
releasing a balloon to honor 9/11,
or smiling in her Easter dress.
I have no cause for this grieving,
no connection, no saying,
“She was my student with the brightest smile.”
The only dovetail of her life and mine
is in memoriam, and in the face of her sister
as we piece together a page in the yearbook,
and I wonder over connections
that would otherwise have been.
This girl not much older than my daughter.
Releasing her balloon into the sky.
Forever six years old.
I pass a Sunday feeling tears under the surface,
spinning like a child in her Easter dress,
or circling like dawn-break birds
when the last fear of darkness
has startled them away.
Who is that group, making its way through the prehistoric gloaming?
A lonely history of men and women, slope-backed, caving the distant, lithic history—
tired camaraderie, pressed against the dome of the planet by the anonymous, barren sky.
They are moving in slow steps, across the gray landscape—wordless in the silence
of a sullen November. The cold snap of twigs against a muddy foot. A quarter moon deciding to rise.
Winter is coming—the long pages of history between us and them. A translation we’ll never share.
And who is that they carry, like a grown babe—helpless, toothless, hipless? Broken
leg bones stitched all wrong. Unable even to eat, this man, whom they carry. Sharing
his weight and passing the days with no fanfare of heroism, no nonsense of rhetoric.
Only the heavy realism of winters past, when he taught them to track a deer in the rain,
and the gentle touch of a hand on a face, the whisper of a word spoken as if in dreaming.
At nightfall they will settle into camp, wordless still. A grebe will make a lonely flight from one nest
of trees to another. These men and women will chew his food to feed him, to keep alive his memories.
And when eventually he dies, some weeks away, they will spend hours—bones against the earth.
Wood, stone against the ground. The small tools at hand. A meter they will dig.
And place him in the mouth of the landscape, this man. Perhaps the first to ever be loved
in this way—but not the last. Without fanfare or nonsense. Just a few moments of love
in the soundless history of loving and leaving.