In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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After the death of my cousin, my aunt
kept asking, “But where is he now?” I wanted
her to take comfort in the catechism answer:
“His body is buried, his soul is with God.”
But she kept asking and never found him.
Years later, I am asking. I am looking for you.
Last week in the communion line at church,
I stared into the red carpet, looking
for you as I moved through the exact space
occupied by your coffin at the funeral.
I looked for you in the vestibule,
under the statue of St. Joseph,
in the churchyard, at the cemetery
where the earth claims your thick hair,
your calloused feet, your white teeth showing
a little wear on the bottom front,
the gold crown in the back, barely used.
I have questioned the branches of cedar trees
near the spot where your soul took flight,
listened to the voices of birds, flitting
between there and here, argumentative and ecstatic.
I have looked for you in silvery, slanted
threads of rain, connecting heaven and earth.
Dark nights I’ve looked up to the moon and
surveyed the spaces between the stars.
I have seen the back of your head in front
of me on planes, your car coming toward
me on the highway. I have studied the face
of a rose, taken it apart petal by petal,
rubbed its velvety essence against
my cheek, trying to unlock some message
from the earth, some news of you.
I’ve eaten a late-summer nectarine,
hoping to absorb some wisdom along with
the succulence from the underground well.
I have examined the pencil marks you made
in the margins of books to point out words
that spoke to you. I have sensed your
touch in the breeze that ruffles my hair
as it moves the clouds across the sky.
And yesterday when I brought my laundry
in from the line, I buried my face
into the silkiness of my white slip and almost felt
your presence in the fresh scent that comes
from the sun, or God-knows-where.
I feel badly for Josephine Redlin — that her beautiful, searching poem [“Looking for You,” September 1995] appeared in the same issue with Antler’s “What Every Boy Knows,” a “poem” that reads as if it were written by someone stalking young boys.
I must comment on Thomas Dorn’s letter [Correspondence, November 1995] criticizing Antler’s poem “What Every Boy Knows.” Dorn’s apparent discomfort with sexuality in no way justifies his charge that the poem “reads as if it were written by someone stalking young boys.” As a woman, I found the poem intriguing. I applaud Antler’s honesty and courage. The artistic expression of a boy’s blossoming sexuality is a rare pleasure to encounter. It outrages me that such a beautiful poem would be ignorantly associated with a perverse crime.