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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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And Again

That was a mistake.

It always was, but I didn’t learn,

     not for years and years.

When I swung down from the tree, I crept

     around the side of the house to the reading nook,

     where I knew you’d be. I wanted to give you

               something small and nice. That’s all.

No, not all; it never is; I wanted

     you to want what I offered. Here:

take this moment, wrapped and tied with ribbon.

You wanted to arrange my happiness,

     to your specifications.

Maybe. Maybe that was part of it. But it did not seem so,

     at the time.

I tapped three times before

               you’d open the window.

“What?” you said. Bland and blank. No bond between us,

no camaraderie, no memory at all, though you’d conspired

not ten minutes back

     to thwart our mutual mother.

“Shh!” Off on the wrong foot again.

“Why?”

“So Mom won’t hear!” Not dropping your voice at all.

“Oh. So? What’s up?”

“Let’s go for ice cream.” I was trying to smooth things over,

     but it was rough going.

Andy grimaced. “I dunno. It’s hot.”

“My treat,” I said.

“How come?”

“To thank you for not telling Mom I was in the tree, you bozo!”

“Oh, that. Okay.”

He said it as though doing me a favor

and then

     it got worse.

Why not this:

 

“What?” he’d say. Reading about dinosaurs, he forgot everything.

“Shh!”

“Oh. Right.” He leans out the window, whispering. “What’s up?”

“Let’s go for ice cream.”

Andy considers. “But I’m reading.”

“My treat,” I say.

He is almost solemn. “You don’t have to do that.”

“I know. But I wanted to thank you—“

“Oh. That’s okay.”

“So—you want to come?”

“Yup. Just a minute.” Gravely he turns

     to set his book aside,

     then lifts the window higher, and sticks a foot out,

     waving in the air.

“You okay?” I ask, trying not to laugh.

“Okay,” he grunts, and slides down, almost to his chest,

     then tries to get the other foot out. Of course,

     it gets caught on the sill. I swear, he is the most loveably

     uncoordinated boy you ever saw.

“Hang on,” I say, bracing myself to push, keeping my face

     well away from the flailing of that first foot.

Draped over the sill like a large pillow, he turns and bangs

     and then, at last,

here comes

     the other foot.

“Got it,” he says, “I got it,” feeling my hands reaching to steady

     his landing, so I step back and he slumps in a pile

     at my feet. I shake my head.

“How do you do it, Andy?”

“I dunno,” he answers, squinting up. “Natural talent?”

 

But no; you rationed your generosity until the word

no longer applied:

you’d given me the moment in the garden; now it was time

     to slap my greedy fingers.

I wanted to walk down the street together,

     companions.

You wanted to carry me in your pocket,

     like a pet poodle.

Instead, the walk was too long, you said,

the sun too hot, and when

we got there at last, they were out of

chocolate. You had to settle for strawberry.

You wouldn’t hurry on the way back, but whined

     as if you were six, not nine. The ice cream

     melted over your hand.

And of course you needed to extract payment for

what had seemed a gift, your silence.

In the end, you threw it down on the sidewalk

     and marched off, small

     and determined.

I walked after, doggedly licking my cone, until the salt

     from my tears overwhelmed the sweetness,

               and I gave up.

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