from Star of the Silent Era

They figured it out when you were five and had an unending thirst and smeary vision. Your dad, Irish weeper, got the job of sticking you twice a day. Each time, he apologized. Couldn’t look you in the eye. By the time you were ten he’d shown you the trick with the orange. How to stick the needle in. How its skin was just like yours, with pores and a thickness keeping everything in.
After the funeral, where I chickened out and somebody else read my poem, the photographer from The Greenwich Time shoved his big black camera in our faces as we embraced. I shrieked at him like a monkey or metal on metal. Then, everyone went to your house and ate beautiful food out of beautiful dishes. And every time someone came up to you to say: I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, you forgave them, exquisitely.
Probably Philip was drunk when the train hit him. He liked Jack Daniels, and used to perch a bottle on a stool in the garage behind your house where he lived those last months. At night, you could see it, a glowing amber totem, through the little square-eyed windows. Later, I read somewhere that you can’t hear the train coming at all from down on the tracks. Not even the whistle which somebody said the conductor blew and blew and blew but Philip and the other kid, they never turned around.
Then, it was so easy for us to disappear. Just walk out of school and jump into the old Toyota we’d resurrected from your backyard. The car your dad insisted would never run again. We willed that thing to catch with the will of young girls desperate to get out. It caught, and your dad, he just threw his arms up and let us have it. In those long, untethered afternoons you and I would drive the back country. Roads with stone walls held together with nothing but time. All the way into Westchester and once across the Tappan Zee to Rockland. As if we were looking for something to carry back with us.

Lisa Hartz is director of Seven Cities Writers Project, which brings free writing workshops to underserved communities. She currently guides a workshop in a city jail. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Blackbird, Redivider, Poet Lore, Thrush and elsewhere. She lives in the Tidewater region of Virginia with her husband and four sons.