Smoking in the girls’ room, sneaking a drink, napping
Subscribe and Save up to 55%
You said you thought the word was pure
to describe the moonlight above us
on our last night in boarding school,
when you and I broke the rules and slept
outside under a blanket of young summer.
You had just written in my yearbook,
“We will always be this way, no secrets,
best friends. Nothing will dim the gold
of what we had these years together.”
And I, hopelessly in love with believing,
fell asleep with your words in my heart.
And years later your words were those
of blessing as you stood in sacred vestments
and placed your newly anointed hands
upon my head. You called upon Jesus
for me, and I felt such grateful faith in you,
my friend, now an ordained priest of God,
a moral lighthouse to guide us and show us
right from wrong. On Sundays I would love
and envy your hands, which held the Host
and chalice in Catholic candlelight
as I knelt in worship and belief.
So now I don’t know what to do,
old friend and molester of other fathers’ sons.
On yesterday’s front page you hid your face
with handcuffed hands like a convict,
like a coward, and I thought of those boys,
the horror their belief in you brought them,
their life sentence of limping through years
with memories of you. And I felt the chaos
of grieving what I had loved about you
as four decades of friendship crumbled
Last night, your first in prison,
I dreamed you escaped to my backyard.
You were crying my name, sobbing
about forgiveness, begging me to remember
what we had been. But I stayed in the doorway,
my arms locked around my four-year-old son,
a brother in innocence to the boys you hurt.
And when Liam asked me who you were,
I stared out at your pleading eyes, your ugly
orange prison suit, and told him, “Some criminal.
Stay close while I call the police.”
It was an old motel
the rooms converted
to tiny furnished
for people like me —
out of Catholic seminary —
for $85 a month:
just enough space
to live for the first time
I’d stand for hours
gazing out at the waves,
sipping coffee and
smoking the cigarettes
I needed like air —
not the last time
in my life
I would crave
what was killing me.
And I’d listen to records.
I fell in love
with love songs.
Years before mortgages
and picking out patio furniture,
I shared my time
with Sinatra and Mathis,
and Carole King, just music
and me, my eyes set
on restless Lake Michigan,
vast as the future when
you’re twenty and in love
with the promise of love
from James Taylor
or Joni Mitchell.
When Wisconsin snow
would erase the lake
from my window,
I’d feel a blizzard of flames
inside me as I listened
hour after hour
to haunting ballads blurring the
distance between the romantic
and the real, and I,
love’s lonely apprentice,
taking it all in,
getting it all wrong.