Each morning, I drive those eight gray blocks: imagining
the running of lights, building of speed, all that could-have-been;
picturing your newly-singled best friend drunk at the wheel.
Your only teenaged flight, not so unlike the times I carried
you in the backyard. But I wasn't there when you came down
so far from the boy you'd been:
face shattered; blue-ribbon body, no body anymore;
your fluid, butterfly legs at impossible angles.
I pull up softly to the rail at the base of the bridge, inches
from where you might have sailed down the bank,
into the midnight rush of water that waited.
You would have had a swimmer's chance.
Each morning, I return to wake you from your flailing
sleep, to dress you, to walk you — you've moved
beyond slithering, thanks to all those hands
on legs, on arms, showing you opposite motions,
the way we humans move — to the stairs,
where you back down. One step. Another.
Head swollen with all that once-upon-a-time
promise just floating now like a body in the reeds.
The two of us, submerged,
hours in a basement — me, wanting you
to be whole again, knowing
better. Teaching you, one pattern at a time.
Slowly, slowly, teaching you
how to think, how to breathe, how to move,
how to live again.
Recipient of a Ucross Fellowship, twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, twice nominated to Best New Poets, and twice selected to Best of the Net, Lafayette Wattles didn't actually read his first poem, play, or novel outside a classroom setting until he was twenty-six-years old. He's been hooked ever since, though it took him well over another decade before he started sharing his own words, some of which have appeared in Boxcar Poetry Review, Blood Orange Review, Cicada, Inkwell, Juked, Plainspoke, and others.