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The Embrace

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Last night, I dreamt
Of you embracing me, your
Tall, gangly body encompassing
My delicate frame
Taking me in, pulling me closer,
Your arms like rivers around me,
Their warm currents flowing
Making me drift downstream
To a sea of comfort.
I woke, wondering why
This felt so familiar
We being classmates
Only friends, never more, and then
I remembered
The first and last time
As the coffin passed
From the high school gymnasium,
Over the cafeteria’s gleaming tile floors,
To the hearse parked
In the school bus driveway.
We watched it, mesmerized
You, 17 going on 18, pulled
Me, 17 going on 18, close to you,
Held me,
As we watched them take him
Our friend
They boy who would be 17
Forever.
We had all seen him beforehand
His face
Strange, unnatural, painted
To cover the mistake
A glove on one hand
That wasn’t really a hand anymore.
The explosion had taken parts of him
The biggest part of all
His soul.
We had sat on plastic chairs
Tissue boxes underneath
Listened as they spoke
But did not hear, too busy
Staring
At the coffin, at the family, at each other
Wondering
If we would make it through this
Then it was over
We watched them take him away
The weight of the coffin bearing down heavily
On the shoulders of the football team.
You and I stood there
The realization of what we had just done
Sinking in, taking its toll
On our bodies, on our youth.
That’s when, for the first and last time,
You embraced me
You said nothing, only, “Come here,”
I said nothing, only sobbed, sniffled,
My tears leaving their mark
On your cotton shirt
Your embrace leaving its mark
On my soul.





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