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  • May, our senior year,

    a last night together

    before separate crossings.

    Cruising the sticky St. Louis night

    in Stuart’s family wagon.

    6 of us shoulder to shoulder.

    Paul turns to me,

    earnest,

    desperate,

    I’m a Texas redneck football jock, he says,

    and you’re a fucking hippy.

    But I love you man.

    Toking, passing the scrappy joint.

    Brushing ashes and embers from lap to lap.

    Stop at a red light somewhere down on Delmar

    Kathy’s powder blue Chevy pulls up alongside

    The ladies, says Stu

    And slouches, cool, one hand draped easy on the wheel

    Isn’t that Claire, says Oscar

    And just like that

    I’m gone

    The others are too wasted to notice

    and Paul's riding a serious testosterone rush

    but Oscar sees.

    Don’t go there man, he says.

    Come on back brother.

    But I got my forehead to the glass

    and I could be 4 or 6 or 8,

    not eighteen anymore.

    Forehead to the glass

    outside looking in

    inside looking out.

    Another season.

    Another crossing.

    23 now.

    Trip ashore for groceries and the mail.

    No letters today.

    All the fleet on their moorings

    pointing north

    into the wind

    me going south

    just me, heading south

    out of the harbour

    off and away again,

    open skiff on the open sea.

    Early winter grey pressing down over

    harsh and sullen seas

    stirred by a heavy, restless wind.

    Running alone to the island.

    Got my back to America

    and the lights of town all dim behind.

    The wind smells of snow and emptiness.

    I shift my hands on the wheel

    shivering.

    Walking up the hill

    past the shuttered houses in the old village

    the wind like a knife now

    picking at dried grass and branch and stone as it passes.

    Hands wet from the mooring rope

    and aching like fire

    stiff and clawlike

    and aching.

    Like a knife slash.

    Like missing you.

    Like my forehead pressed against the glass

    outside looking in

    inside looking out.

    Inside the house

    out of the wind.

    Alone in a stunning silence,

    my hands shake

    as I lay a fire in the cold stove.

    Strike a match.

    Strike another.

    Watch the miracle of flame amidst the kindling sticks and curled birch bark.

    This is as cold as it will be,

    I tell myself.

    And take comfort

    knowing I am inside

    out of the wind.

    There in the house at the top of the hill

    the last house in America before the open sea.

    Inside.

    Looking out.

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