By Jacob Nantz
To wonder where this began is to retrace
memory: a day in autumn, trees half dead,
half living. In the air, the smell of leaves
and sticks burning, smoke meddling with fog,
no way to distinguish one from the other.
We walked home on the sidewalk that twisted
through our neighborhood, our double helix
to home, grocery bags filled until their square
bottoms rounded out. I walked quickly those days.
I had no reason but found one, always, to leave you
behind. That day, your bag began tearing
at the seams. I could not see it, only felt you
falling behind as the sun dipped below the crooked
tree-line. I could see my breath as I cursed you
to hurry. First fell the stronger items, those
which remained intact when they struck the pavement.
We walked past our childhood—parks and slides,
fields, the small forest where neighbor kids smoked
cigarettes, where, once I grew too old for bikes, you
also smoked cigarettes. First you scraped up produce
from cement. Then you saw stars when it was still light,
swore they were following you, were to blame. I did not
believe you. Next fell the easily bruised. Your trust fragile
as eggs, you tried to keep up. Why couldn’t you do it.
Why couldn’t you keep it all intact. I wish I could have
stopped it, or known, even, that you aren’t at fault. Someone
could have told us it’s okay to feel broken. I would have helped
instead of walking. Even now, I notice the yolk on our fingers.
I pretend to see stars next to the sun. It’s buying me time
to seek help before regret storms in, splits my heart in two.