I was too young to call him a friend, but I had a classmate once who snuck up
behind a horse and now his body is made of a long time ago.
He is the quiet space in my memory where he never sat next to me again.
Back then, everyone I ever called a friend held fire in their fists
when they talked to me. Their fists were dingy, grime-covered, and grease-slick
as if they were made of horsehair, as if they were untamed and lonely,
galloping and wind-swollen. We didn’t know how to talk about loss,
so we made each other lose. We went to fields to see
who could take the most damage. We went to fields that smelled like the boy
who became an empty space on a Tuesday morning a long time ago.
Now, because I am scared of time and how it moves, I look down at my fists
that didn’t always want to, but have hit so many friends
that the broken knuckles look like bruised magnolias. Listen to me, Please,
when I knock or bang on the table or door and beg for attention.
Please, I don’t know how to ask for forgiveness. I don’t know how
to let anything go. I don’t know how to say anything else
about the boy who had a buzz cut and a flat head, the boy who was kicked in the face
by a horse and died looking up at the sky. The boy’s father must have
found his son with a crushed face, and while running back to the house
with his own son in his arms, must have said something raging
and spiteful to God. This memory is my starting point when I think backward
and apologize for all of our fists coiled tight as key rings. How could we not
break the mirror we look at in the morning? How could we not swing
at the different versions of our faces staring back between
the fissures? The hurt and mangled parts of us loved the blood dried brown
on our skewbald knuckles, and we had nightmares of being reined in.
We needed someone to help us change. We needed someone to force us
into confronting the uselessness of our violence.
But no one came, and our fists swelled unbridled and restless, wild and afraid.