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To Kai, From Gerda

Just now, I bent to pick a flower;
your absence had hollowed me so thoroughly
my fingers snapped like straws.

I don’t know why you left,
why you slowly, suddenly, like a freezing
river cleaved our home in two,

I don’t—I don’t know why
or when you became who you became.
Your eyes like frosted glass

winking at the world,
your jokes like icicles thrust in my back, as if
I didn’t hear every word.

Do you remember? I think
you cannot:

In the last summer of our childhood
we pressed a rose. Its petals folded
into arches and windows
more intricate than a cathedral, tucked
safe in the heart of our favorite book

and when winter came and we
had opened it before the fire, those dry
petals looked out at us, the face
of something older than innocence

but you wrinkled your nose
and laughed. What a laugh!
It cut me open, harsh
like the northeastern wind
that grinds at the corners of our house,

all bitterness, no mirth.
Like a dead rat, you said.
You didn’t notice me bleeding.

A crow with your mother’s frown
showed me a vision of you: the cold ground
had shattered on your shoulders

and you heaved the pieces
across a colorless floor while she watched
smirking from her throne.

My clever boy, she said,
my clever darling, stay with me

You sighed tearlessly
and kept working, as if you could craft
eternity from broken earth.
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