Sunday, January 15, 2023

When the boy who used to place me repeatedly in headlocks
on the school bus then punch me with his free hand died 

last fall, his obituary listed the names of his children
and grandchildren, an almost-biblically impressive collection 

of begetting. And as I read those names in the paper,
I remembered the tireless pistons of the boy’s blows 

existing in the same continuity of time as the evening he had
his mother phone my mother to see if I would spend the weekend 

at his farm, because—or so my mother claimed—he said I was
his closest friend in the world. I returned to these thoughts   

yesterday while driving home from Dayton, and thought, too,
how my father had similarly confused affection and violence, 

and how he told me once that the only constant of the world
was that everyone was forever trying to fuck over everyone else, 

which he presented as the one true economic lesson, a justification,
I came to understand, for his own bad behavior. All of these 

memories led to still another of how my dad used to drive me
sometimes to a mall that later was bulldozed down to nothing 

and how once—after its destruction—I rode my bike there
with my brother to throw stones and to marvel at what wasn’t, 

though soon we crossed the road to the Dairy Hut and imagined
with a strange pleasure that the mall had been destroyed by 

falling bombs, which had transformed its general goneness
into a kind of beautiful ugliness, elevated in that moment, 

especially when geese on their passage south began squawking
above the remains, the sounds expressing a communal solitude 

or maybe an otherworldly lamentation beneath parasitic clouds.
But all of these thoughts vanished, of course, the very instant on 

the ride home from Dayton when a sudden wall of snow drifted
its indeterminacy across I-75, making a blankness of the world, 

and I didn’t know whether to brake or to continue on ahead,
though I saw, for the briefest of moments when the curtain opened, 

a car in front of me twisting to aim the other way, skidding on
the ice, the face of the driver locked in a wild gaze. Then the white 

kicked up again to cloak us, and I didn’t know whether this time
it might somehow form itself into a shape or an idea or a language 

or a belief, or if the world itself had somehow flickered out,
reducing everything everywhere to this unknowing. 

Sunday, January 15, 2023