What’s Left

The first thing I did at that old house was look in the mirror.
I saw horse ribbons against a pink wall.
I saw shoes lined up beside the bed and the flinty eyes
of a stuffed cat perched on the pillow.

I saw you, graduated into adulthood, hair swinging in a shorter arc
than it did at 16. I saw the last bench
on the train platform, where we sat entangled and I told you
your mother was coming back even though that wasn’t something I knew.

Trees bloomed and leaves cracked and we were still apart; I thought
change that doesn’t go with the seasons is cruel.
I thought certain scents could hold the shape of a moment:
pine from the boards of your backyard shed
and us inside. Our sweat mixed with sweetness
picking roses by your neighbor’s fence.
Once we found raspberries to stain our fingers,
paint our lips, but
the color wasn’t quite what we’d imagined.

In the front hall, I still smelled our bathing suits–possible?
Felt my feet shedding water,
my hand against the smooth gilt frame
of the landscape in your mother’s bedroom
from which we made up stories outside of ourselves.
When your mother came in, we hid in her closet
and watched her put her earrings on.
Was it strange to you too,
how easily she smiled when she thought she was alone?

In the background beside the farmhouse
was a girl in a blue dress. You could barely make her out.
Years later I closed my eyes
and filled in your features where hers would be.
Soon your left eye filled the canvas
and I lost the rest.

Somehow it’s still autumn,
the sterile sadness of the train platform.
We cried under the half-fortress of your hair,
the din of wheels on tracks gone silent.
We were bad together.
You gave all that bad to me.

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