Tuesday, August 23, 2016


We sprawled out on the sofa bed in the living room
of your stepfather's house
watched Requiem for a Dream I wanted to touch
your creamy skin but you were frozen
and I knew that if we touched that I would freeze too.
You'd loved morphine but not for a long time
and a little ways above us perched on the top of the hill
was the pagoda that looked out over the city
built over a hundred years earlier
as part of a resort that never materialized.
In its topmost story, an 18th century bell
brought to Pennsylvania from a Japanese temple.
Though my grandparents had lived just across town,
they'd only taken us to the pagoda once,
climbed up the seven stories to the top, I remember there being
a little local history museum inside.
In your backyard your stepfather had installed
a koi pond. You couldn't forgive him for the things he did
years ago but you had nowhere else to go
and just as I reached across the expanse to touch
your tattooed wrist your youngest started crying upstairs
The next day your stepfather drove me home, we sat
in the backseat for the hour drive and didn't touch once.
Years later of course other things happened
between us, and all those things piled up
roof upon roof upon roof of the pagoda
towering over the city, a decorative exotic building
that doesn't really belong there, a building
visible for miles that everyone has affection for
but no one really knows what to do with.

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