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For Jenny

The moon pick-axing through the pines, only half

mad and only at its own expense. You were the beat

our heels gave to the faded side street. You, thirteen

of us in step, were the echo and the silence after. We

had ping pong balls and tennis balls and super balls.

We had plastic batons and fingerboards. A stranger

would have thought us an army of idiots. But the moon

wasn’t judging. The gates were locked, of course.

We had to slip things through. I’ve heard people say

 

children don’t know how to grieve, but this funeral made

up entirely of people between eight and ten, did better

than any I’ve seen since. We each pushed our offerings,

things we really loved, through saying only, We miss you,

over and over. Then we turned back at a quicker pace, afraid

of being caught—afraid of being caught grieving together

when we were supposed to be alone in our beds in the dark

with all this new death. But the moon never said a word.

The next day, while the adults cried, we sat quietly waiting

 

for someone to ask after the piles we left. No one did. They

said, Shouldn’t they be crying? They said, They’re kids, they don’t

understand. But our new emptiness was different than theirs.

They mourned what was taken from them. Us too, but also what

we gave so this could mean. The sun sees too many things

to know what is important. Night provided a more intimate

partner for dancing with your ghost that last time. We were

children. The adults could teach us nothing about ritual. It was

something they knew, sure. It was all we knew for sure.

 

photo credit: Skitterphoto via Creative Commons

About the author

John A. Nieves has poems forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: Beloit Poetry Journal, American Literary Review, Sycamore Review, Puerto del Sol, and Mid-American Review. He won the Indiana Review Poetry Contest and his first book, Curio (2014), won the Elixir Press Annual Poetry Award Judge’s Prize. He is an assistant professor of English at Salisbury University. He received his M.A. from University of South Florida and his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri.

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