Driving in to work the other day I saw
light laying claim to the fields.
Early, earthly, there, it all but
rose up through the very leaves
whose late, imaginary
embering it fueled, aflame
with all they’d taken in. I felt
such fullness—in them—felt
such weight, even though
it was only listlessness, the branches
getting ready to let go. I felt
the soil-dark downward
proof of being, the earth
an appetite, an almost-love, the air
a meeting ground,
the whole of seeing
seeable, still beheld
by matter’s intricate recall—and thought
that all that’s resurrected must,
if anything is resurrected, keep
some taste of gravity
if it’s to know itself again.
I should probably mention
that I went to Catholic school—
twelve years, the last four
I don’t remember resurrection coming up.
I remember being sad—
and frightened. I remember
those years weighed more though
they lift, they almost always lift,
clear freely now.
my eighth-grade classmates met
at a neighborhood O’Charley’s.
I don’t live there.
It was easy not to go.
But a few days later someone
posted pictures on Facebook
and the gathered weight
of that time carried forward
pulled me back.
Before I knew I was doing it I found
the places where I could have hid
and hid there. I felt again
how much hiding shows.
From inside the frames were overloud
and crowded, overwhelmed with what
I only noticed after a few images was just
one person. Even
at the margins, even
barely in the shot he moved
so hungrily toward the center
everyone else bent back.
Facebook I looked for him looking
for anyone there and felt the shock
of something obvious
so long overlooked:
how lonely he was.
How lonely he must have been.
he must have been short then—
but still fit, tautened, tanned, the agitation
of holding everything in place
longer than the rest of us have:
It hung from him, the thickening
that hadn’t happened, a hardness
listing off his frame in the little
slackenings of skin and sinew
water-creased. I thought of him
lifted up entire
in that flesh and wondered
if he still believed.
I wanted him to.
I wanted to believe it myself,
even though—and I swear
it didn’t occur to me then—
even though I’d seemed so savagely
unreal to him I seem
unreal remembering it now.
It’s just a story now: the day
he and one other kid
chased me around the playground
(this must have been fifth grade)
punching and kicking me in the nuts until
I finally fell down crying and they both
looked at me and asked
what was wrong.
they meant it.
I can imagine them asking
who did this to you.
It was that surprising to them.
If I’d ever wanted him
to be hurt, I didn’t want it
anymore. I wanted
all of it taken away, at least
if it could still be him—without the harm.
And maybe even if it couldn’t:
maybe just take all of it away, just
to let his sad flesh breathe
a little more than it seems to
in those pictures, at least
for the rest of one life,
which I assume is all we have,
let his hurt stop. Dear Lord
in whom I don’t believe,
let him breathe in comfort for a while.
And if not that then lift him up,
the earth still on him,
a little as he leaves.
Let him feel his being
in the pressure of your arms from underneath.
Jonathan Farmer is the author of That Peculiar Affirmative: On the Social Life of Poems (Stephen F. Austin) and editor in chief and poetry editor of At Length. A high school English teacher, he lives in Durham, North Carolina.