Graduation, 1995

I was told to follow the invitation to
your party. I did not want this
back, but I drove the thirty miles, nervous
and shaking -- took half a pack of Camels
to get there, stereo blasting violence in the
back seat. Lost in Lansing, a maze of orange and
red signs, potholes; then a familiar street.
Stepping into your back yard, overcome with
ghosts, half-forgotten pasts, my haunted eyes
seemed strange to your friends, with their
hockey shirts, with their cheerful smiles

I tried to see your ghosts, your pasts,
dead father, dead mother, hovering behind
your shoulder. Your dead boyfriend, standing
next to an engineering student. Peculiar engineer, with
FUN carved in his short, tight hair, sniffing
habitually, perhaps from the trees. My ghosts
crowded them back, and nothing felt
real. You told your friends, card playing,
that we were old Euchre partners --

And I remember that night in the modern church --
we first played Euchre, you lying on the floor,
wearing a t-shirt and sweat pants. I stare at the
polyester carpet, and only glance at you, trying
hard not to look at your neck.
and I can still see your elfin smile

It was time for you to hostess mingle,
so I played this silly game with your friends,
the engineer still sniffing with every misplayed card.
They were people that could have been
my friends. I lost the game and sat in silence.
You slid behind me and touched my shoulder.

And I remember that night in the old church --
laying on cotton sheets, longing to join the party
downstairs, but needing more the pity of
self enforced isolation. And you're there and
it is so important that you're there and
not downstairs. You stroke my back through
my black t-shirt, it is perfect and I hope and I
wish it will go on forever. I say wonderful
insightful things --
Are you all right? I should go back down . . . .
and I can still smell your apple breath

We talked briefly about my engagement and
my hair. You played a game and you won,
the engineer started cooking hot dogs
on a gas grill. the flesh smells, and the
spattering sounds drive the past away for a moment.

And I remember that night outside by the fire --
we sit on a splintering bench, and
I am crying baby sobs for the end of everything.
You hug me tight and say you love me.
Because I can't say it, I thank you.
and I can still hear your smoky voice
softly singing.