The Formal Absence of Precious Things


Though drowned for three decades
she steps fresh as creation
from the broken glass doors.
And then I remember, in that instant
that she is dead, and I am not,
this is another century, so
this must be another girl,
a newly minted stranger,
one with whom I will never speak.

I am awash in emotion -
not loss exactly
but a very particular awareness
of my own duration.

I see a beggar leaning against
a jewlery store facade,
his head pressed against the windows.
In those windows are small, empty pedestals,
formal absences of precious things,
now locked away for the night.

His legs wrapped in brown paper
look vaguely medieval,
a knight crafted from office materials.
He is the color of pavement,
his very race in question,
yet when he looks up at me
my own eyes peer out from his tangle of curls.

The girl who drowned so very long ago
settles down to my mind’s bottom,
swept down in a swirl of toffee hair
and less hurtful memories
to where my youth turns gently
in its accustomed tides
and I am more comfortable that way.

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