Once, you threw me from the shore to teach me to swim, but time gasped and stopped, its nose pinched between finger and thumb. I stayed curled midair between sky and its murky mimesis.
I walk the I-600 to see your cross. As I tightrope the rumble strip, I practice the art of bravado, but my shoulders slump themselves, and my spine crooks at its own behest. My shadow watches, echoes your questions.
Why do you keep your head down?
My shoes stuck to the whitehot blacktop as your showed me how to hold the weedwhacker over the church parking lot cracks. Long after I’d razored down all signs of life, my hands pinned and needled from the hymn of the machine.
And what happens to the weed-choked seed?
I dropped a bible in the bathtub once, and you scolded me for reading scripture naked. The impact of the truck tore the clothes from your body.
Can’t you stop slouching so goddamn much?
No one knows if you did it on purpose, or how straight you were standing as you strode into your shadow. I can’t imagine you didn’t hear the horn. I wonder how your body arced. If time froze.
Mom and Dani cried at the funeral, but I couldn’t work up the tears. Your crossed hands held one another back from the rising and falling with anything but praise. I clicked the aperture of my gaze in disbelief to hold forever the still life.
When you were out Mom would tell us ghost stories. The awful, corny ones where people dream fear into reality. Mirrors mirroring mirrors, kids trapped in the infinite between. Mouths torn into smiles.
In my dreams, my needlethin fingers tremble too much to keep your eyelids pinned down.
Ready to launch, bud?
When I end my own days, maybe I’ll have to see you again in the flesh. So I hold my breaths not to waste them.
Can you count to ten?
When I stop sucking air I’m conscious of weight lifted off my frame. I can stand straight until my lungs hiss at me to let them out.
If I ripped open my chest, could my lungs live on their own? Look at them on our kitchen floor, pulsing with breath. The lopsided metronome of their hope.
Your cross sits choked in the weeds past the rumble strips and the last of the road’s straight margin. I wade through the grass your corpse feeds to touch the small memorial. It’s mower-stained, like the white socks of a kid who runs shoeless through the field to show you he can.
I am only always above the pond. Couched in the held breath of the universe, I study my legion reflections in the water’s unshattered veneer. I see you standing on the shore, arms raised in crooked hallelujah.