…for Erica

for Erica, March 2015

I counted Mexican Paintbrush petals
in your mother’s garden
where we dropped our bikes every
summer morning, preparing
our packs for the day’s ride
or swim, mapping the summer

I thought about what you said
the night before,–how you planned
to escape someday, how you
needed something real
and I felt naïve in my
cut-off jeans and chucks,
I felt like I’d never be that brave
because I didn’t know
what it is I could escape—
how different life was
supposed to be

you weren’t afraid of the world
I felt so swallowed up in

we rode out of town, into the country
stopping in forests
to run our hands through
the moss grass beneath the needles;
we found trees and apples and wildflowers
singing together California Dreamin’
because nothing mattered
because we had each other
and that day
that moment

Were there ever two better suited
lovers of the earth?
How we loved the rain
and chasing trains,
the smell of the tracks
beneath that one rainbow
who the hell can see forever

I think of you,
I respond to your letters,
I picture you across
the ocean, painting houses
to get by on your trek across
the continent with your love.
I picture you gardening–
maybe Mexican Paintbrush?
soil and seeds in your hands—hands
I’ve held while leaping into
unknown waters, our handshake.

I read your search for yourself,
and your courage to find it,
fearless.
You were always fearless.
It wasn’t the world that
frightened you.
That was a thing we
had in common but didn’t know it—
what frightened us
was ourselves.
In dark corners across the globe
facing down hell
in shacks and hospitals
I read your eloquent graffiti
you wrote in a rush,
and I was there hovering
over your breaking heart
as you held mine

I heard from someone
you’re still beautiful

See, you started living
from the outside in—
you grabbed that great big
old world in your arms
squeezing it until you hugged
only yourself
and me
I went from the inside out–
bleeding it out
so I could finally see
that life, like you saw,
life was to be had,
not given
and I am only stepping
into the world, overcoming
that old fear

I haven’t talked to you in years
I am too afraid,
if you must know.
Maybe you are, too.
And life is getting
busier and a little bit fuller
and I feel your current—
yours is too.

Some kind of force
out there
caught us without
our maps
but as time passes
and we grow into
the women we are meant
to be
I have to believe
we never lost them—our
constellations to each other.

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