He asked me why nothing changes.
I watched him reach out and yawn,
a breath sent to the golden velvet hills.
His arms folded behind his head,
his eyes closed.
Even half asleep I saw myself in his face,
our father’s lips, prone to chapping,
and our mother’s button nose and freckle constellation.
I pretended to know the answer, too scared to admit that I don’t.
I told him that life exists as is.
We can’t go up and touch the sky,
Everything has a way of being, I said.
Look at the peppers,
growing in rows like they’ve planted them
since Steinbeck was here,
even before that.
Look at those wizened old valley oak trees.
This is how everything is meant to be,
Constellation of Aries
I think of April and May when in moods of desolation.
Remembering joy is so easy, so easily
bringing light to my face
until I remember he shouldn’t still make me smile.
But it is so difficult to not be pleased by your laugh,
by the way you looked at me at three thirty seven
because to you I was the only one
in the world.
You still reverberate in my cerebral cortex.
I returned to the fourth step on the fourteenth,
just as we did when the moon began its crash course into earth
and my tides shifted.
I languished there for hours, wishing
that you would join me, sweep me off my feet and away.
I traipsed by the spots we haunted,
wandering the corporate canyon of Madison Avenue.
I felt a soreness in my gums when I arched back,
glancing up at floor twenty-eight,
saying goodbye to the place I know.
But I scurried away, pretending that it signified nothing.
I was trespassing.
It should have been left untouched
and it should not mean anything to me,
but it means you.
It means the sun crossing the constellation of Aries,
the coming of springs, both the world’s and mine,
and the only time in my life that
every moment, every moment, was the world.
Without you I am star systems away.
I didn’t mean to take this from you,
nor do I intentionally keep forgetting to give it back.
But somehow it always escapes me,
its bulk of pages hidden in those deep dark
places in our house somewhere,
When I need to reach Achilles, I just
stretch my fingers. But whenever
you need him, I can’t.
Who could blame me?
It smells like old paper,
is made of old paper,
old enough for you to have
read me the safe parts
when I would cry at the rest.
Mommy was asleep, and we
don’t want to wake her up,
The corner of the dedication page is
torn off, from when
I was too young to even hear the safe parts
and just wanted something to chew on.
You pulled it away before I could.
Who could blame me for losing it in one specific place?
I keep it in the back of my closet,
but you’ll never know that.
You had such nice handwriting when you were younger.
Little blue sentences accompany almost
I run my fingers
along the creases.
They feel so familiar.
The more you leave the more I find myself pulling it out.
Alicia Schleifman, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Silver Key