I think of the children who will never know, intuitively, that a flower is a plant’s way of making love, or what silence sounds like, or that trees breathe out what we breathe in.
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We walked the city after dark, talking
about the things that mattered to us then:
the most vivid ways to live, how to keep the fire
ablaze inside; the girls we’d loved, the women
we’d meet someday. We might even build
a house, we dreamed, with all our other friends,
out in the country, or maybe we’d move
to some other country, away from all the clutter
and flash. We smoked a joint and sat
on a stoop and sang to the darkness. We’d decided
to walk till first light, for the mildly wild adventure
of watching an entire winter night.
Toward dawn we passed a church
and stopped to admire it and heard
a woman singing inside, high pitched
and thin as the glow from the moon against
those stained-glass windows. We stood still
and listened hard as flurries started.
We watched our breath rise and mingle,
the buzzing of the streetlamps
as loud as her voice. I wanted to sing back to her,
but she would never hear, so I started
to hum. You hugged me then on the sidewalk,
old friend, in your peacoat; you kissed my frozen ears,
my forehead. Your breath smelled like wet wool — I remember
that well, after all these years — and you told me
you loved me. I said the same to you,
though I couldn’t have meant it. Did you? We were just boys.