Then we woke in a period of suspension.
Of being kept within a violated interior,
an erasure in which each of us lived
in what was gone, there was not breath
enough to speak. A notice to set
the hand brake in the truck had
a stupid dullness of ordinary things,
stripped of their once latent sanctity.
Is this what we had been? Shrubs,
trimmed almost leafless, choked in cement-
dry dirt at the base of light poles.
In the parking lot, I was absorbed
by the grey cab, its utilitarian pallor,
or became for a man passing by,
his keys and paperwork in his hand,
a dim stain, featureless human figure, un-
moving, the passenger’s empty seat
that, in the instant before he passed,
revealed a living face and someone else
then behind the wheel—since that day
in the Ryder truck I wish I’d said
I found myself in other people’s hands.
Think of those years, I meant to say.
For some reason I can’t imagine now,
I stopped listening to the one I was,
and said so to my wife’s father.
Not wanting to be long the next morning,
he asked me to work quickly at the house.
The garage was already stacked with boxes
the younger sister pulled apart
for anything she could wear, a hoodie,
a collar and sleeves as we loaded the truck.
I lingered, probably too long,
in the emptied rooms—the wire hangers
in the bedroom closet were white;
where his son had bled, a squared hole,
down to the wood subfloor, had been cut
in the carpet; the curtainless windows
and rods a clutter of hook eyelets.
I was not prepared for the smoke peeling
off a sage smudge by the front door,
how it made every plain wall shabby.
It rankles, upends the heart’s wanting,
this being found. I acquiesced. Once,
a friend saw and said I won’t let you go.
In that moment, on Resaca & North,
I became a need of the soot-shadowed
meeting house; the air pulse and painted-
shut window panes opened to summer
box fans; a need of the stifled
but green shade trees on the sidewalk
and staccato rush of passing cars;
and of people in the park beyond the road:
they strolled out onto the grassy field
by sunken railroad tracks and a footbridge
over the pond; and for the elderly
who had been singing hymns all morning,
straggling down the steps by me, a need:
the children leaping off, their chatter,
all this for which I could have a skin—
a kind of accident, but waited for,
possessed and yielding, a passive intention
like the weakness of God. And this
is why I felt almost sorry to have lived
when my wife’s father asked how
I’d managed to: a whole year so near
a death like his, it saturated every hour.
I was not on my own, I meant to say.
The likeness we were is irretrievable and
binding. Paul was not weak. I was found
or let myself be found—was seen.
But it was too devastating to say to a father.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 15, Issue 4.
See all items about Lawrence Wray