1. A priest gone bad? A filthy old man? A sick, tormented soul? Think of the poverty of our language when we try to describe someone who buries pictures in the bottom of a file cabinet, naked girls turning their faces to the window, boys wrestling on the floor of a sunlit room, their skin the white of milkweed. Maybe you hid such pictures not just so they wouldn’t be found but so they wouldn’t lift away. Children who look as if their bones were full of air, as if the slightest breeze might carry them off, arms and legs unencumbered by anything but light. Perhaps you put on robes because you needed something heavy and dark to weigh you down, to hold you to one place. This life you had been given. 2. You sit in the bar dressed in leather trying to look both tough and pretty at the same time. Your father had pushed your face down into your food. He’d made you wear a dress and parade up and down the street till you said you were sorry. He had raised his hand to you, even then. So you took a bus as far away from Indiana as wheels could carry you. You headed for the ocean and then for the bars, for men as sleek and muscular as the waves that, if you look and look, become one wave and that wave no matter how often it is wrestled to the ground rises and lets itself be torn again. If you are going to be punished why not by the gods? 3. You put your fingers to your lips as if to make sure you hadn’t betrayed yourself in our friend’s kitchen, an amaryllis so gorgeous it had to be sinful, you couldn’t take your eyes off it — the shock of it, you told me later, almost making you cry out, the flower’s head almost too heavy for its stem, its four open mouths four terrible appetites for the light. Inside each gaudy envelope shy, inquisitive stamens. Each of us brushed our hands across the tufts of pollen. You lifted its dry, sweet mustard to your tongue. If only there existed a language as compelling as our dreams. 4. Very young, you had awakened to a shout from your parents’ room. A shriek and you couldn’t figure out what it was. It sounded like someone toppling over the edge of a very high place, the split second he realizes everything is opening under him. When you searched the house all you found were your mother and father. They were sleeping they said. They had heard nothing, you were imagining things, they scolded. But you had heard pain, the soul rise out of a person, and you were sure it was loose in the house. You stayed up all night, watching for it. This is the last memory you shared with me, pulling me close to the bed the year you were dying, one of those stories a man offers to explain what he can’t explain. Another gift you made me take. Here is my life. Here is all I have to give you. 5. They were sorry, truly, the Diocesan Council said. But they did need the space, your office, the one we used to threaten to bring shovels and dig our way into, beat off whatever small animal was living off the sandwiches you’d laid aside. Absent-mindedness used to make you search for hours for the one paper you needed, buried under the thousands you didn’t. What are we to do with a shelf full of pamphlets on Facing the Challenge of the New Prayer Book, August through December of the Little Portion newsletter, a wall of movie posters, the intricate bones of a deer’s spinal column, a jar of marbles, ticket stubs for the opera, a cigar box of protest buttons — Boycott Nestle, Make the Night Safe for Our Daughters, Look for the Eagle, Disarm Now. Going through the papers of someone we love, how can we throw away anything he loved? Couldn’t part with? All those pictures weighed down under old issues of Church Weekly, girls stepping out of their clothes, boys sprawling on rocks or getting ready to dive, photographs torn from magazines, documents a man keeps at some risk. A sonnet sequence to a high school lover. In a velvet pouch at the back of a drawer, a medal for public speaking. 6. Father tore up my speech. He grabbed my hand, pushed it down on the page, made me start again. He told me exactly what to write. But I didn’t keep anything he dictated. I delivered my own words and today I am the Best Boy Public Speaker in all New Jersey. Forty years later you still had the medal, something heavy and substantial to hold in your palm. The profile of a Greek youth and the pillars beside him raised out of the dark, coppery coin as if inviting the hand to trace the fluted columns, the lines of a young man’s face. 7. At the edge of a jetty a boy stands by himself just free of the dark wall behind him. He is lifting his clasped hands over his head as if he’s just awakened and is stretching, offering himself to the day. What the eye is drawn to first is the pale skin just under his arms. In another picture his face is covered in light, as if the sun had traveled millions of miles only to stroke the curve of his throat, trail over the slope of his shoulder, take the measurement of each rib, identify every glistening hair of his long, slender legs, a dazzle drawn down to a boy as if it could not be kept away, as if he were its inevitable conclusion. 8. Sitting on my back porch you had closed your eyes as if you couldn’t say what you had to and still look at me, at the shimmering on the leaves of the plum tree, at my son lying in the grass his book open and the light filling every page so brilliantly he might have been trying to read its story and not the words. Strange how I remember the moment before being told even more than the telling. You raking your hands down your face, over and over, fingertips pressing into your cheeks as if to distract your body a little so you could say what you had to. Not till months later did I hear what you were really willing me. Not till long after I had sorted, folded, and tied your papers in small bundles, packed away the pages of recriminations you wrote but never sent your family, pictures you’d torn out of magazines, rough drafts of poems you left unfinished. Not till today when the sun was squandering itself on my wife’s bare stomach, on my bare legs did I begin to risk understanding and finally grieving what I had lost. Not till I was lying naked and prodigal on a morning when it seemed the world could never claim me or anyone I love, nothing could break down our doors, we with certain privileges here as if we were ambassadors sent to a foreign land above all its laws.