ELEGY FOR JIM CRESSON
We sit crosslegged on the floor
of my pad, Fall of 1969,
jungle-stink still fresh in your hair,
drinking Boone's Farm out of paper cups.
I tell you my brother is still over there.
MIA. Fuck, you say and hold out
your Dixie cup like a chalice for more.
I tell you that I loved your smile
in high school. The way it dimpled your face,
puckered your eyes; the whiteness
of your teeth, their eveness; how laughter
perched at the back of your throat.
I'm going to travel, you say. Backpack the world.
Morocco, maybe. Kathmandu. Definitely Kathmandu.
Back then, in wine-light, we thought even
our feet were capable of miracles.
Now I read that you have died.
Driving south in the northbound lane.
Twined in her downy hair,
a hand big and dark as a
first baseman's mitt holds
her aloft, body weight
pulling the dislocated spine
into alignment. They have
wrapped her round and round
and painted her with plaster
of Paris from the base of her
skull to the crown of her pubus.
Her toddler's feet minnow about
above the stainless steel table,
No word yet for panic,
for suffocation -
that will come later
when as an adult she
rasps awake in the night,
the white of her blue eyes
brighter than misshapen bone.
But for now, beads of sweat boil
up on the arm holding her as she
waits for the white correction
to dry hard as a mollusk's shell.