Rachel Jamison Webster
WHEN YOU SEE IT
It’s early in morning’s memory,
with that fog around the edges
and you, wrapped in blankets, rocking
just up and over the rung of consciousness
into the blurred limbs you are coming
to know as your own, into the car
clapping through a broth of wind and rain,
parents murmuring in the front seat
over wiper beats and soft talk radio—
sounds that will become the beginning and end
of love—a slow unwrapping
of cinnamon gum, and her, passing it to him
as he aims you straight and low.
The car slows. Then stops. She opens the door.
Asphalt. Bleached sky.
Across the road, a workman
is climbing the hotel sign.
He scales the tight white rungs
until he’s high as the building,
until he’s no longer
what you understand as a man
but something small enough to hold and bend,
like an action figure
or poem. Is this the moment,
years later, when you say,
the bag slung over his heart is filled
with black letters?
Is this when you have him pause
at the top, hot luck rushing his limbs
one March dawn, and how long
can you stare like this—at his body
interrupted with mist, his tiny hand
reaching into his bag,
and you, clutching orange juice,
your newness in this world—
before you see it—
his slip, no
of a moment
over and over,
the hollow pole
of a life and
it goes on
happening and yet
a man falling
like no more
than a bright spoked star of snow.
With you there,
trying to wake.
—from Rattle #23, Summer 2005