Year in Water

The poems you wrote, shared, then hid
as self-destructing ephemera.

Your words are sheets of paper
that dissolve in water

in less than 30 seconds. A hesitant return
to the office turns cautiously joyous.

Faces you have not seen in two years
bring tears to dampen your own.

A college friend is sick.

You island hop across the Northeast,
from Manhattan to Governor’s Island

to Roosevelt Island
to a collection of them in Rhode Island

passing by Uncatena and Nonamesset
on the way to Martha’s Vineyard.

Old friends everywhere you pause.
Ferries and rookeries and egrets

and catamaran sails at sunset.
Dodging pond sandbars

in a motorboat
on the way to a barrier beach.

You meet your oldest sister’s
favorite local photographer,

ship a photo of your childhood
beach to her.

Gichi-gami and its 191-year
retention time. You swear you can hear

giraffes hum beneath
the Aerieal Lift Bridge in Duluth

each time you cross. You encounter
your father’s handwriting

preserved in a journal he kept
for a poetry class in college.

10 years gone now.
You are finally brave enough

to open the notebook.
“Poetry is life!”

his younger self exclaims.
Another Great Lake

comes into view
as fall draws you out.

You walk along
an old fishing pier

with your other sister.
Wedding plans begin

to take shape for her daughter
as your younger niece

and her sweet brother
are beginning to happen.

You see your mother.
There’s never enough time.

Your friend is dying.

You share nature center trails
and a familiar duck pond

with more dear friends.
A 300-year-old bur oak

in Loring Park splits open
under the stress of age,

rot, drought the final straw.
There are things you find

in the sculpture garden,
give away without telling a soul.

And there were rabbits
everywhere in the rain.

Your friend dies.

You dream of seeing him alive
one last time

in an amusement park
overlooking Lake Erie.

The Golden Gate Bridge.
A memorial service. A reunion

for those of us who remain
to tell the stories—details

a little fuzzy, a little disputed,
it doesn’t matter.

A raven flies overhead
as the fog clears.

Microclimates at work.
Are you okay? Are you okay?

Voices and laughter as singular
as fingerprints.

The first snowfall
before winter is made official

is Minnesota’s signature move.
And then a second, and then

the seasons change.
We drove almost all the way

up the mountain
to see through the mist.

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