On the Coast of an Inland Sea
Then it was spring; now autumn.
The leaves more brilliant this year, the nights colder.
Some things are easier to accept.
There are fewer words than there were, for example.
We used to say vermilion, crimson; now red.
But we can still speak.
New checkpoints have appeared,
but not where two roads meet, or on the outskirts of town.
Places where we did not think about crossing from here to there.
In the soccer stadium, many seats are now empty,
but we still cheer for every goal. What else can we do?
Even if young men sometimes disappear.
One young man was standing at the bus stop, bored, impatient,
staring off into the distance.
Then he was gone.
Others have vanished from fields, market stalls, even their beds.
Now a woman walks through her house, fumbling with a ring of keys:
I told you, she says. And it is all coming true.
Not the same coast. Not the same sea.
But beneath the window where the boy used to look out at the waves
the bed is empty with the same emptiness.
At first his bed was too long.
On cold nights when he submerged himself in his quilts
his mother could barely see he was there,
his bones were so slight. Later
he had to lie at an angle or curl into a ball
so his feet would not hang over the edge.
His shoes were boats, enormous.
When his mother put on his shirt
to have something of his against her skin,
the sleeves swallowed her hands.
She rolled up the cuffs, and when she walked through the empty house
the shirttails billowed behind her.
Once, the basement was an endless expanse
where his wooden trains crisscrossed their tracks and passed under viaducts.
Then he wanted to ride his bike around the block.
You cannot keep a boy from opening the door, even if one day
he will vanish from the bus stop, lie gasping in the street, fail to call home.
Even if one day the door swells and sticks because he is not there to open it.