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.