The past, that line on the highway,
yellow paint stretching ahead,
fleeting flash in rear-view mirror then gone;
there is a tendency to envision people frozen in time—
that girl with one blue eye, one brown
used to run around with me hot evenings in the neighborhood.
She stays eternally six years old without sons, office, work, house;
we continue to chase each other across back lawns, up hills barefoot,
squealing, dipping hands into old people’s bird baths.
Strange how these times bring the past back, making lost found,
and twenty years later the outline of the child’s face is still faintly
visible in the Facebook photo as you stare unblinking at the screen.
As I child I learned to let people go, to rely on the mind’s eye
for sheen of hair, warmth of sun, glint of blue eye, yet now it is certain:
the first boy I ever loved still breathes beyond the screen.
There are his words after eighteen years: ill temper at his job, food
he had for lunch; the flip of a switch erases all distance between
now and seventeen, that whole road, until there is another window,
and my best friend of sixteen who is dead.
In the years since we parted I have watched us walk together
behind my eyes through cold night mist in the woods above Casper,
the sparks rising to stars from the fire at camp, and I have heard
our laughter in a rooftop pool in El Paso, when growing up began
to balloon as the shining buildings rising out of darkness around us.
I’ve found myself beside her in cars, walked the halls of high school
with her in our youth. Then social networking made her finally gone,
dead of heroin at twenty-nine. What to make of frozen time that ticks?
The past once stood there, gray and still, a silent monument in the
corner of our eyes; now the loves of a thousand years bubble
to the surface, old comrades, forgotten schemes, regrets that never die;
they call and call, ghosts filling all air, infringing
on the very corners of leaving, making us forget the very idea of lost,
becoming phoenixes ever restless in cool red dust.
Anna E. Childs lives in East Tennessee, where she writes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction; teaches college English; and raises three children.