Saint Timothy’s School, 1975
It is natural for us to want to be cradled
says the nun who clutches the fake toy baby
after rapping your open palm with a ruler
for being late to Home Economics.
You scuttle toward the back of the classroom
and cannot help but notice, mother, the dense
relief of the gray trees riddled with white sun
emptying each of snow. Your mind knows
how to carry you far, alert but sullen
in your household, half-asleep on your feet
as you spread jam and cheese onto bread
for your father, or sulking on your walks home,
asymmetrical whirr of light leaking out of the bars
that same light I passed in my twenties,
upstate New York, summer fully turned on.
The night a green bottle hurtled past my ear
and smashed on the pavement in front of me
I’d just left a gay bar to smoke and watch dragonflies
sputter out in the cracks on the sidewalk.
I froze as the men drove off, murmuring
fag, accelerating into the blackness
as the beer-foam rivered out, collapsing
like the rhetoric of this performative era.
Our loneliness is a lineage heavy as a heatwave,
inevitable as a blizzard, and though
I rarely admit this, mother, that night
I’d have liked to be scooped by your hands,
hands that tied your hair tight for the journey
so you could endure the whoosh of cold
and the passing cars and the passing jeers
of the boys who rode inside them.
Shaking into myself this morning, I see
the grimness of swans on water,
hovering girls in a rectory, feathers
fastened to an ineffable wind.
I have never prayed at St. Timothy’s Cathedral
or stared at his face in edifice,
but according to the scripture
he was a timid, compassionate man.
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