The house is for sale.
There is a sign in the yard that swings when the wind blows. We stood on the front porch and watched the clouds gather over the bent trees. I remembered the night the tornado hit several miles over the train tracks. He was close to eight months old, new teeth breaking through his tender gums. I rocked him back and forth inside my basket arms listening to the wind rise through the open window.
We ran down the stairs in the dark and he slept in my arms as we crouched on the basement floor, his eyes moving back and forth in tick tock dream. And I remember praying, writing words inside these walls, hoping that somehow they would hold us together.
The sky was achy and blue and he slid his hand inside mine.
“Are you sad, mama?”
He found a puddle and kissed it with the tip of his toe.
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
His eyes lit from somewhere deep within, like a lighthouse making a turn towards the sea.
“Let’s go for an explore the way we used to.”
There is the path you used to run. All of the voices hidden between blades of grass, the laughter caught in each bend of leaf. A rustling beneath that shakes the seed from the tall grass still swaying.
And I thought of all the places we left footprints.
Where the grass got stuck between our toes and I thought about the house alone, quiet without the voices in hallways, wet mittens on floors.
The way leaves, loose from the hold of a tree can look like rain in the wind’s breath, a storm of hearts flying. A flower longing for hands to grasp its broken stem, to mend it with fingers laced.
You’ve grown on the shoulders of these days, lifted from yearbooks, dog eared diaries pressed between palms, hands made soft with time.
Something is being rewritten, still quiet and small, like sunshine before the rise just before it meets the horizon. This poem left out in the rain, words once pressed hard with imprint, now smeared by touch.
He is shy and his eyes are heavy. And I see the back of his head more, the sweeping curls of a boy who used to bring me frogs and toads and broken blue eggs pieced back together.
And I miss him already even though he’s still here.
High school doors will soon swallow him.
He walks with hands in pockets, protecting the contents from another day, the peripheral glance back to something forgotten, lingering somewhere behind his eyes.
Handles broken off in the places where I used to hold on.
His slippery heart moving in and out, like the sun’s woody pattern on a summer’s path. This intermittent hello lost, this blink between man and boy.
It was the way he carried himself, shoulders bent like a broken gate unhinged. His hair soaked in an elder fog.
And maybe I will always remember this day as that time, that last time he let me see inside his window eyes before the curtains were drawn.
Or maybe I will remember the way these same eyes grew forests with their light.
“Can I hold your hand?”
Can I feel all of the words still hanging in your heart like flowers left to dry.
Sometimes we need to talk even when there is nothing to say.
This thunder behind a cloud, brimming with strength and voice. Notes drawn on a page, the music never played, hummed over the cattails swaying.
And we’ll open a window, and listen for a far away train going somewhere, the soft horn of arrival and departure. Follow me. Anywhere. Somewhere. And the trail of smoke curling around cities, the places you’ll go.
This story has new pages where my words have been erased and rewritten in the quiet places between the lines. Where my words have grown smaller, pages still blank with life.
Open the skies.
These words feel like falling rain.
Skin raw under these first new drops. Soaking into the cracked walls of thinning grass and the pale remnants of summer.
“I missed you.”
“I missed you too.”
The way a story can be heard crying for release under a stack of heavy books.
The stone paper, soaking up each turned corner cursive stroke. To know it’s still there, the voice behind the eyes, the rumbling under the forest bark, the roots shaking with power and strength, waiting to be released.
I can hear the words spoken somewhere between flannel pajama bottoms and loose teeth under pillows, all the places where the roots have been pulled from the ground.
And the words follow us like a kite dragged over the dusty ground, waiting for the wind lift it again.
“Do you remember the bird?”
The one that found it’s way in through an open door. The way it flew around for hours, hovering above the couch, landing on tables and crashing into windows, trying to find its way out, until finally, he landed on the rough stone fireplace. His small chest moving up and down, his tiny heart beating so fast. And we tried to move him, tried to get him to crawl inside a small bucket so we could set him free. But he wouldn’t move. His tiny toes curled around the brown stone, holding on. It died, holding on. And the next morning, we buried him in the yard. You cried. You held his small wings in your hand and you cried.
“He wouldn’t let go, mama. He wouldn’t let go.”
Sometimes you have to let things go in order to be free.
And this is what it will feel like.
Like the wind under a broken leaf, set free.
Like a door rising from the dirt ground, loosened.
You are my words. Each deep breath pulled close to my ear. Your cry caught in the gentle twirl of a black cat’s tail and her quiet meow with eyes asking.
“Can we play?”
The house is empty.
I thought we’d have more time.
All of the words, still silent, waiting behind walls crumbling.
There is a passage, an underground tunnel of time, unseen, like a man quietly holding his suitcase walking towards the tunnel’s open end, a halo's light welcome.
There is the surface in hand, the belongings of a life collected and put down, only to be watched from a distance, this sail being lifted and pray for calm seas.
Sometimes all we can do is try. And I have to be reminded of how this thing works. This salty tear, feet bathed in dirt, thing.
Because, you can’t hold on.
Grace comes in the early morning hours before the light has a chance to grow hard. These whispers between leaves, caught between steps, forgiveness rising on the wings of feathers stretched, the mourning dove’s last cry.
This fragile tree place where the slightest shift in wind can tear at a newly forming leaf, where I pray the roots were made strong enough for these winds of change, this heartache grown from stretch, the vine wrapped and pulled, stretching towards the light where a small seed blooms.
And the deep breath of the thirsty paper quenched by a liquid brush. Take me somewhere. Anywhere.
These words spoken for the first time, the shell cracked, pieces falling to the floor in puddle of ink and spoken watercolor words. Stroke upon stroke, until something luminous and holy shines through.
And the fallen seed caught in the open hands of goodbye.
"We are explorers."
“I love you.”