We said our farewells in Seattle;
You, heading off to the library in a misting rain,
I, preoccupied with transit arrangements, flight delays.
But I remember the smoky scent of your body
and how thin your shoulders
in our last shivering embrace.
Don’t look back, I told myself, as I walked away—
not on your life, or be stricken helpless,
all steely resolve reduced to salt and tears.
Don’t look back if you can help it.
But, of course, I couldn’t. Not on your life.
You were standing at the top of the hill, the first time I turned,
your shoulders stooped, trousers drooping in denim pools.
My glasses had fogged, but I saw that you’d turned as well,
and how graceful your mittened hands in flight—
like mourning doves—when you waved goodbye.
I wish you could know how beautiful I thought you then—
like a watercolor come to life; a wonder wrought by an artist,
a being more deserving of your existence than I;
and yet, even at that distance, there it was—
the echo of my face cast back at me from yours.
It couldn’t have been more than seconds
before I turned the second time.
But you were already gone, lost in the Seattle mists.
Was it negligent of me—so eager to be on my way—
not to have recognized it then: a matter of life and death?
Was it unforgivable not to have fathomed the truth:
that I had only that one opening—to call you back,
that last chance to call you home?
Is that too much to ask, I wonder?
Too much to stand, perhaps,
of one poor benighted father?
Not on your life.