— For Douglas, Ben, and Spuddy

My son posts a picture of himself at three years old
with his father, my first husband,
who still has black curly hair and is looking right out of the photograph
at me, as if he knew this day would come, me staring back
at him and wondering where that moment has gone.
I took the picture, thinking
I would capture something of the pleasure
of the fresh blueberry-and-peach pie I’d just baked
and placed on the wooden table next to the mint tea
brewed in a jar with leaves from our garden.

He and my son are laughing. The beagle
is there, too, his white-tipped tail up in the air,
hoping for a bite of pie.
We’re out on the patio at the picnic table
my first husband built, behind the house we bought
together, where we planted two aspen trees the same height as our son
under the canopy of blue sky, thinking
we would live there forever.

We don’t know yet, in the picture, that I’ll leave him
four years later; that he will stay in the house, alone,
long enough for him to grow his hair into a ponytail,
for our son to turn thirty-one, for the trees to pass
the roofline, for the beagle to die.
We will bury him in the backyard.

My first husband will begin to lose his memory
and his vision, but he will refuse to sell the motorcycle,
as he will have refused us so many things.
In the fall before he turns seventy, he’ll insist on driving
up into the mountains
just one more time, to see the trees
turn gold in the September light. As if
he knows what is up there waiting for him;
as if he has planned precisely how it will be
on his last Sunday ride, a joyful goodbye,
how it will unleash him, unravel his life, and never end.
When the car crashes against his bike,
he will fly before he crumples, as if
it’s what he has always wanted, leaving us behind
to wonder if we have ever understood in his many
refusals how he might have been saying
yes to something else we just couldn’t see.

At moments I think I’ll call him
like I always have and, if he’s not there, leave
a message, ask, How’ve you been, anyway?
I’ve learned that habits take longer to die
than people do. I would like to tell him our son is doing well,
despite everything that’s been lost.
I sometimes think he could still be
on the road, out past Lyons or Estes or
Allenspark. My son and I could still be
waiting for him to call. Or maybe
(because who really knows how these things work?)
we’re still there in Colorado — him, me, our son,
the beagle, beneath the aspens
he loved or on our way back to the house.
Perhaps we’re there inside the picture,
eating pie in the backyard
under the brilliant blue sky
with the future still
unknown, yet all around us.