That for years I wondered what had become of you,
how you managed, made money,
if you ever married that younger woman
who pilfered you from me, that more years passed
since our last phone call when you told me you’d nursed
your father to his death, that Google became a lens
from which I could glean the few pinches
of internet signature you left there—a comment
on a moped site, an arrest in front of your childhood home—
that my sister told me she thought she once saw you
in New York with a little boy who resembled you,
that my childbearing years came and went,
that you visited my dreams more than anyone else—
sometimes in a dance, sometimes an embrace, sometimes to die—
that I lived 23 years in the home I bought for us
surrounded by your artifacts—
a picture frame, a camera, a mocha set—
that I managed to build a life in that house beyond our love,
until I decided to move, and so to unclutter,
that for all the ways I imagined we might have met again,
to see your name in an email
claiming with such purpose
in response to my ad
that the mocha set was yours—
After all these years,
how could I have known
that to conjure you
I need only have mentioned
It Wasn’t the Gun
but today I’m thinking about it—your gun—
still packed up and ready to load,
the .22, Smith & Wesson
you bought when we moved to Bear Island.
I remove it from the case I gave you one Christmas—
the case you had taken down that Saturday,
in preparation for the season opening
that week—that saddest Saturday,
before it wasn’t just another
shimmering November day on our lake.
Our lake—that’s how we’d refer to it those thin months
when most other islanders had closed up
for the season. The gun still smells of oil —
you’d cleaned the scope and barrel,
tucked the ammo away in the zipper pocket
I’d had monogrammed for you—JAM.
I was always terrified you’d die by this gun
with your hunting buddy nearby.
I lift out your orange vest and hug myself into it
inhaling as I do but I don’t smell you.
I smell only the house you built for us—
my very definition of you.
I cradle the rifle under my arm and aim
at the mounted head of the deer
you’d shot that first hunting year—
I pull back the trigger of the unloaded gun
I want to shoot holes through all we did,
to cull sense from the inexplicable —
the crash I thought was our running aground,
how much it hurt to grab our phone
from the slump of you, already gone.
After the accident, your picture—
printed in the paper—side-by-side
with a photo of the driver of the other boat—
your hunting buddy—looking young and happy
with a fish on a hook.
In your photo your wrinkles smile to the sun,
but oh, that chiseled chin—
I called you Apollo for that jaw—
Apollo, who, like you, healed and sang.
Filmmaker and photographer Carla Schwartz’s poems have been widely published and anthologized, including in The Practicing Poet (Diane Lockward, Ed), and in her second collection, Intimacy with the Wind, (Finishing Line, 2017). Her CB99videos youtube channel has 2,400,000+ views. Learn more at carlapoet.com, wakewiththesun.blogspot.com, or find her on YouTube, Twitter, or Instagram @cb99videos.