It was unseasonably warm for a November day
And I took full advantage, wearing open-toed shoes
And a light jacket that flared out in the wind
Which was also warm, not cool as it was usually wont to be
So late in the season.
My head moved up and down to the music streaming
Through the mini speakers in my ears
And my toes were tapping as I walked because the music
Was not only playing through my radio but also
Hung in the air with the wind and the sky
And everything else that is so beautiful right now
Like the warm sunshine on one’s skin
And the squirrels rustling through the leaves
Looking for the last of the late summer food.
Days like today make you forget that winter is coming
And they make you forget that things have to die,
And they make you remember when you were responsible for raking
Leaves into giant piles in your youth but you
Never finished that task without destroying the pile
And spreading the leaves over the lawn once more.
I remember that day, and they were caught in your hair
And I was too young to know that “No” existed and too
Young to want “No” to exist when
You caught me off guard, holding my lips against yours
And my face was red, cheeks rosy, not only from the cold.
We had to hurry away from the leaves for fear of being caught
And went into the house under the pretense of getting hot chocolate
Because it wasn’t as warm as it was today, though it was just as sunny.
But we skipped the cocoa and headed for the basement, our parents under the impression
That we were going to watch a movie.
But no movie could have taught us the experience which we were learning
Through touch and feel and taste and hearing
And our senses came alive for the first time.
While we never knew what we were doing,
Or the wrongs or the rights or the warnings,
We felt the foreboding wrapped around our entangled limbs
And somehow didn’t care. Like stealing dessert before dinner,
We had arrived at something guiltily wonderful without ever knowing why.
Today I held a coffee in my hands as I sat outside,
The sun beaming down and warming me through all the black
Clothes I was wearing, soaking it up like water in a sponge.
I thought of the time you broke your leg and we thought that was
The worst thing that could happen to a person
Never imagining that we could wear black to funerals
And have someone never speak to us again,
Because they were so underground they couldn’t
Breathe the air.
You sat with your leg propped over the edge of the tub
And your mom would take a sponge and wash you
And I was there, because we were young
And didn’t know that nakedness could be awkward or shameful
Or that baths were private, and, anyway, you were wearing
Your bathing suit – the same one you were wearing the day you pushed me
Into the pool. I dragged you in after me, and we spit the
Breath from our lungs, and sank to the bottom,
Like two corpses who didn’t need air, our eyes stinging from the chlorine,
But we refused to close them because we wanted only to look at one another.
That was when we were little, but somehow it was not unlike the nights
We spent at our families’ cottages, older. We snuck out onto the dock at night
And after watching the stars for long enough – although who can say what is long enough
in looking at infinity – we would strip off each other’s clothes, giggling because it was as
wrong as pushing someone into the pool, giggling because although it was summer
the nights were too cold to be naked, and giggling because
what we saw.
As the sun goes down today, the weather cools off not a little
And I reached to the back of my closet
Pulling out my thick coat for the first time this year,
Slowly pushing my arms through the sleeves and letting it
Shoulders and pulling out my hair which always gets
In the zipper if I don’t move it out of the way
I am held in the coat’s embrace so that when I leave the house
the now bone-chilling wind, which rips at my knees breaking through my pants
And sending goose-bumps up my legs, cannot break the barrier
Around my torso all the way up to my throat.
Still, the cold breath on the back of my neck raises my hairs,
So different from the warm exhale I felt in your embrace.
My hairs raised that night, after my father got sick,
you squeezed me
your breath so smooth, compared to my ragged gasping,
and your kisses fell lightly on my cheek, my neck,
My shoulder, my breast,
And your arms were my coat, my warmth,
Strength and protection against worse things than wind,
And it was a time when I thought things could get no better
And that I would perhaps never be happy
And the possibility of death appeared on my doorstep
But you held me, and no death or frost or chill could creep down my spine,
Still my hair stood on end as we explored
Well known territory and conceived
Something more beautiful and powerful than death that night.
The air is cold, tonight, on my fingers since I forgot my mitts.
I thrust my hands deep in my pockets, searching for the warmth they
Crave like I crave you.
Why did you leave the house on that cold night, and get in your car and
Drive; you drove away from everything you knew,
And I, who thought I knew everything having had a husband, and a baby
And having travelled, and having experienced the miracle of
Health, and having known more than so many – I thought I knew.
I thought I knew you’d come back, and I thought I knew the phone would stay silent
All night, and I thought I knew that life stayed perfect once you reached this height.
The things you must have learned as the car swerved,
The things you wish you’d learned, the things that you thought you’d known
But never did, and the adventure you’d thought you’d save for retirement
All came down at once, in moments, in seconds – in slow motion, perhaps –
I can never know, and I never wanted to imagine, but sometimes I can’t help it
Because all I have left in your place are my memories.
All I ever wanted were yours.
Imagine what happened, my mind whispers at night, and sometimes I cry
Aloud in reply
Shut up, shut up
and it’s around that time, worse than my father being sick – who is well now –
that I thought I would never be happy again.
But those words are too simple, life’s not simple like that;
people can’t write it, nor can I, but I can paint a world
So unlike the one I’m in today, where the sun
Didn’t feel warm on my skin.
The morning light and darkness looked the same,
The day was not inviting, and the night felt like daggers
And stabbing pains would grasp my ribs while I did the dishes.
Sometimes my hands wouldn’t work on the job, and I couldn’t hold the pen firmly.
My boss told me it was okay, but nothing was okay or fine or even anything.
My eyes constantly watering, or they’d be dry until I ran out of laundry soap.
The worst happened when my baby brought me a coloured picture and
I ran outside away from her
Knelt in the mud
Pounded my fists into April puddles, let the rain wash away my tears.
I shudder, today, in remembrance. Not wanting to be that wreck of a person,
Embarrassed that I was,
Knowing you would have hated me like that
And then you would’ve felt bad that
You were the cause of any pain. I think of the apologies
Spilt from your lips after you killed the spider and I got upset at you.
It was wrong of me to care, and you were the one
Who felt bad. I didn’t want to disappoint you then,
I don’t want to disappoint you now,
The night air is fresh on my skin,
But nothing like your breath.
My empty bed, holds me at night,
But nothing like your arms.
My friends will take my time and make me laugh,
But nothing like when you stared into my eyes.
It’s in the happiness today that I remember you most,
And though a part of me, distressed, buries her sorrowful head,
She is so far buried already that I can only enjoy
That every happy moment is so familiar,
Because I’ve felt them all already,
I’ve felt them all with you.