First, Last

In the end it’s air the body wants,
air that won’t come, air that comes
too late. The body wants it as one
wants cool water from a jar midday
or wants to rest a spell in shade at
the edge of the field or to lie beside
the creek that goes on without you
when you look away, moving as air
moves through all living things, like
life itself before we know we’re us.

If death did you a kindness, that last
body you let go would return you
to the first, the body you lived in
when you knew the way you’d never
know again the sound of that creek,
the smell of the cornfield in hot rain,
or in the cool of the day the garden’s
beans and zinnias, that red dirt you
ate that tasted like pennies, like blood,
or down the road on a power line pole,
the creosote that tasted the way
you imagined electricity must taste,
not exactly better than the dirt, but
worth the punishment of prohibition.

Nothing could touch the things you
carried in your mind. Even dragging
that kid-sized cotton-picking sack,
you could be dawdling in a dream,
feeling winter on your skin or
throwing sticks for your first dog
who smelled like biscuits and molasses,
that happy first friend of your soul,
killed by the bus your first day of school.

In that way of country people who
give grief no place to go, your mother
sent you on, when you got home, she
helped you bury him. But your grief
rode that bus with you to school each
day, sat at the desk behind you, waited
near the road to watch you play, and
shadowed you through every dream
till planting time, that year that
didn’t end until you found the things
inside that still belonged  to you,
your readiness for wonder, and
your tender stubborn love.

. . .

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