Trailways 8

You meet me at the bus stop
and we drive to your parents’ house.
After the whirl of family greetings,
(Your mother looks more expectantly at
me than ever.)
you hand me thick socks
and your sister’s old figure skates.

We skate wide circles around
the cleared edge of the lake
our breath in white clouds.

You skate over to me.
Your cheeks are ruddy,
your eyes hidden shadows.

“I’m glad you came,” you say.
I nod.
We cross wrists and join hands
and begin to whirl
against our own force,
whoever lets go first will split us wide
and we’ll tumble into the cattails
or go skidding into the snowbank.

We are both laughing,
it is an old game.

You swirl me close suddenly
into a bear hug.
I can feel you shaking.

I look over your shoulder
at the sliver of moon hanging above the treeline.

You say, “I know what I am now.
At school…I know. Now.
We can’t. I can’t. I’m sorry.
I’m so sorry.”

You take my mittened hands
and hold them against your heart.

“Always be my friend,” you say.
I look at you, your eyes are full,
and still you shake.

“Yes, always. I promise,” I answer,
and bury my face against our clasped hands.

The cattails rustle in the December wind.

On that frozen lake,
that Christmas,
so long ago,
half my heart stayed with your heart,
and half sank to the dark water under the ice.

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