March 1, 2019

Rodney Gomez

ENOCH

At Cascade Park,
where he’d busted
a street lamp once,
my friend John declared
I am Enoch reborn.
And it wasn’t the weed
or the bottle of Seagram’s
that caused him to turn
away from what he’d been
before, but conviction
& the way his father’s belt
rose hillsides over his back.

After that, his voice
no longer lilted
or grappled with doubt.
He came & went
with the urgency
of a sailing stone.
Then disappeared.

Later I heard he’d moved
back to Sparks
with his folks & a sister
who loved to pray
in that showy way
bigots often do.

I often wondered if,
like wind does to clean linen
on the line,
she’d smothered him,
or his father.
Or whether he’d ascended—
all bones & crewcut,
frail as chicken wire—
to the heaven he’d never known
except in brief flashes
of sodium light.

Years later, when I gave
my son a parrot for his birthday,
I told him about John—
how I had a friend when I was young
who learned not to be afraid
by giving himself a name & took
the only thing willing to be claimed.
He became an architect, or custodian,
or roustabout, who knows, it didn’t matter
because he was his own.
And my young son, understanding
already how much love
sometimes blinds
as much as it illuminates,
very clearly, in the way only innocents
can, said, I’ll leave you too,
eventually.

from Rattle #62, Winter 2018

__________

Rodney Gomez: “‘Enoch’ started out as a short story about lost friends. The main character spends his time imagining wondrous things for the friends he knew in childhood, but resists the urge to look them up on social media or the web. I abandoned the story, but kept the idea of loss and friendship in this poem.” (web)

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