He wanted to speak telepathically but our arrhythmias muddled the signals. The sky at an
impasse. Dark clouds heavy as an anvil but dazzling where they broke, backlit by the sun.
I glanced at him sideways. Dark hair curling around his ears, a peppering of stubble along his
jaw. Even in winter, sun kissed skin. Each word spoken with a new insistence. I like you a lot,
too. I always want to be friends with you. But my heart, of course, exacted much more than that.
My love: the world’s own perennial flower. His awareness, just a seed. Scared, I only hear what
he doesn’t say. Then everything around us – the heavy air, the paradox of closeness – recedes.
Time skids backward. We’re five. He’s hazy in the concert polaroid, no more than a dusty blur
as we lock hands and spin on stage. Time lurches forward. I’m in his family’s kitchen. His sister
hugs me, her eyes soft like his. I know who you are. You were special to him. The cat cries.
I can’t move. Every pulse point pounding. Stare at his closed bedroom door wondering Did he
say that? Spring again. The snow won’t stop falling. A white shroud conceals the buried seeds
and dead leaves, burdening parked cars and telephone wires. As I circle the lake I watch the
flakes cling to the trees. Try to remember everything exactly as it was. Every word, every
gesture, the day we talked on the curb. To translate precisely, but my arrhythmia still interferes.
It’s not you, he rephrases when I rewind the tape. I care about you. I’m sorry I can’t tell you
more. His uneasy heart would spare me if it was true – but it’s also what I don’t wish for him.
That, before he died at seventeen, he already knew about risk. Life’s most heartbreaking lesson:
how delicate everything is. I read his mind and missed the message the day the sky met its
impasse. But now, years later, I think I see it clearly. In hoar frost and ice flowers.
The feathery patterns that form on winter glass.
* This poem was originally published in Event 45/3