The dream refused me his face. There was only Mike, turned away; damp tendrils of hair curled out from under the ribbed, rolled brim of a knit ski cap. He’s hiding
the wound, I thought, and my heart shrank. Then Mike began to talk— to me, it seemed, though gazing off at a distant, sunstruck stand of aspen that blazed against a ragged wall
of pines. His voice flowed like sweet smoke, or amber Irish whiskey; or better: a brook littered with colors torn out of autumn. The syllables swept by on the surface of his voice—
so many, so swift, I couldn’t catch their meanings . . . yet struggled not to interrupt, not to ask or plead— as though distress would be exactly the wrong emotion. Then a wind
gusted into the aspen grove, turned its yellows to a blizzard of sparks. When the first breath of it touched us, Mike fell silent. Then he stood. I felt the dream letting go, and called,
“Don’t!” Mike flung out his arms, shouted an answer . . . and each word shimmered like a hammered bell. (Too soon the dream would take back all but their resonance.) The wind
surged. Then Mike leaned into it, slipped away like a wavering flame. And all at once I noticed the sky: its sheer, light-scoured immensity; the lavish tenderness of its blue.
The One-Armed Boy
has taught himself to play catch with the walls of his house. With great difficulty has learned to open jars, trap grasshoppers, write in straight lines. Has, over time, discovered how not to hear his mother weeping, or his father roaring drunk. Has carefully trained himself to deflect the cutting comments of his schoolmates. If only a saw had gnawed it off! Or some gigantic shark, as in his recurring fantasies. If only he hadn’t been born like this. And yet, near sleep, the arm that never was reaches out, touches something even the boy can’t name. Like rain at midnight falling into a field of poppies, it gently bathes his non-existent hand.
Two lovers with no future going at it: the bed’s headboard bumps the wall, hung upon which Van Gogh’s manic Irises knocksgently; nails sunk into studs and plaster grow a little looser. Such punishment is why the house will collapse someday, the world being what it is: a planet full of lovers with no future— only now, now—and that famous “it” all of them keep going at. *****
THE RAIN AT MIDNIGHTHere I am pretending to sleep, but in truth I’m eavesdropping on the chattering rain, hearing it gossip in multiple voices like three beautiful sisters after dinner, the dessert half-eaten now that the talk has turned to miseries of marriage, and bewildering children, and mothers who knew no better— and I wonder if they understood I’m not really asleep, if they felt my male listening alive in the bright circle of their concerns . . . how they might take it, whether they’d fall silent, or just go on a bit louder, a touch more forcefully, knowing I’m there, knowing who’s lurking in their midst— or maybe they’d simply blend back into rain, a dark rain, the lull of it, the sweet nothing noise and the kiss of it, the tears and the healing sleep of it at last.