August 7

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I disembark in a different country with a nagging language
At my back, clever, persistent, sometimes pungent, abundant
As the fur of seals, orange as fire leaves on unfinished land masses.

At night I rode from panthers, vampires, swore that those
Clicks at my back bike wheel had to be lycanthrope
Teething for my neck. Home, I’d laugh through the relief of safe escape.

Then to leave it. Not I but he who lost a finger and roused
In the masked stitcher thoughts of lost instruments
Hushed by the small print of books, fetches at the river
With a father who didn’t utter much, himself
Lost in a face he once saw singing at the late night fireside.

Something of forewarning in the shake of his fingers
At the final trussing, after which he sent me
Down the laminated hall out with a bottle of pain pills
And a word to watch for infection and the tricks coyotes
Play on the rocks above the interstate.

After lunch with friends I saw a painted tiger
Slowly grinding to dust behind a thick wall of glass
And inexplicably drew out the memory
Of touches I felt in another country where I’d nearly
Been run down by a bus.

A palm down the side of my cheek outside the Catedral Metropolitana,
The echo of four footsteps on the paths of Chapultepec, small hands,
Like acorns in the grass, clasped. Birds clucked behind the feather-thin
Leaves where we might have hid if the light had held.

He carries himself into new countries, trailing the hes already
Passed here and whose shoulders and heads can be seen
In the shadows of lamps. He locks the door. I turn down the hall.
An afternoon picture window burns against the black.

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