They buried you, without us. My memory contains the top
of your head, a lifesaver I spat into the middle, my legs
wrapped around your shoulders. You had no harsh words
for me, no complaints about the stickiness,
the slight green tinge your skin had taken on.
You taught us how to fish. You were dying by then
and everyone knew it. French Creek contained enough
fish that we hooked three in an hour and threw
them back. My father told me how you used to bring
home trout for dinner that you caught on the way back
from the smelter. No one knew him but me, my grandmother
declares to the stranger she buys fruit from, two bags
of oranges the farm could never produce. She is complaining
about you, a decade after your death. He never cleans
the garage, he never fixed the door. He was an only child.
We shared gummy bears while watching hockey. I confess
I was only in it for the candy, for the few words you would
offer up during commercials. When I flew out to say goodbye
you would snap germs at me if I got close. As if cancer
was catching. My grandmother told me once, that her best day
was your funeral. Not the ceremony itself, but after, her whole
family gathered around the kitchen table, talking. My brother
and I were asked not to come. We stayed at home, ate
Cornish Game hens with our mother. Once in Times Square
I met your ghost, wearing steel toed gum boots and a hunting
jacket. You smelled of salt, of the sea and the fire place.
My cousin asked me what you were like and I
remembered how gentle your hands were, how practical,
how freckled. The time I came out into the field to see
that you had plucked grins out of all the largest sunflowers.
The time we gifted you a scarecrow of yourself.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 20, Issue 1.
See all items about Caitlin Thomson