Stages of Object Permanence
You flew over the peaks of la Cordillera Blanca,
A copper sunset, a statue of a woman in a long skirt
Crossing her legs, the church in a plaza of a city
you never got to tell us about. The magician placed
a white sheet over your eyelids and you disappeared.
My vision blurred. I didn’t know to look for you.
I opened the mini-blinds and ate a bowl of cereal
Without milk. I waited for you to come around
The corner. I waited for you to say “I’m sorry
you thought I was” and I drove past your house,
or what was your house, just in case your old blue car
was there, just in case you were in it. It never was.
I looked for you in better places because that’s where
They said you were. I looked for you six plots
From the tree with the wind chimes and found
Your name next to a vase with artificial flowers.
I found your pair of red Converse that had faded
since you wore them last. But I didn’t find you there.
I turned the pages of my calendar hanging on the wall
In my kitchen eleven times. You missed your
Twenty-first birthday but we drank to you anyway.
In Spanish class I learned how to conjugate
In the past tense, but didn’t understand
How someone could have been, but no longer is.
I reread your letters and framed a picture of us
From a summer when we were teenagers
And you smoked on back porch steps.
I looked for you in that summer, in secret cigarettes,
in careful handwriting, and the floral section
Of the grocery store. I didn’t find you there.
I remember the way your hair around your face used to
Curl in the humidity. I listen to songs that remind me of you
in the silence before sleep, confronting all I know.
You taught me to never leave important words unsaid.
I learned not to look for you in familiar spaces,
But in ones marked with uncertainty.