possess a loneliness
that seems to fight for itself, Lloyd,
like some old dog running to the woods
a too cold winter night and all
I hear after calling its name
until I’m breathless is the branches
and their icy cracking, then the deadfall
of paws loping home in the bright, humorless dawn.
Tear down the gallows, Lloyd, cry sanctuary!
when the woman at the VFW asks
you to leave after you kept coming back
alive: searching for any Esmeralda
to break this spell of having survived
the mob, the men and their torches,
the once-towering steeples. She said
you were bothering other veterans.
She was probably right. You are not
very friendly. She is not your Esmeralda.
I am afraid of you, Lloyd, of solitude’s
dark knots, no one at a deathbed
to say: You are not coming back. You are going
to be okay. A stranger peels the final linen.
But this is not how our book reads:
your bones entwined with hers
like exposed roots, and you know it is her
skeleton by the beads around her neck,
by the silk bag with its emerald glass, all of it
falling to dust, Lloyd, but past this notion
of aging is the fact of rust: of what was once
bright and shiny devoured by salt,
and our plots will be salted, too, Lloyd,
if we’re lucky, to make room for headstones
marking where and how long and who.