He was gone by then, gone with girlhood,
like an apparition, until one night
outside Woodstock, I heard shuffling in the branches
outside the kitchen window
and saw the glowing body, silver with time,
emerge from behind a lone pine.
I walked out the back door. Cold air
lifted my hair. We were so close
we almost touched. I was waiting for him to remember
who I was, to remember why he resented me.
Instead there was fear in his eyes. I could tell
he had been out there a long time.
He moved closer, his breath turning to steam.
I reached out and touched his cheek.
Like a child he heaved against me, and I held him.
In the silence there was a sick sister,
a collapsed house. I couldn’t.
I thought about the long years since our last visit.
I wanted to explain how lonely I had been,
how loneliness had made me
mean, unreliable. Had driven me deeper in.
Even now, being with him
meant abandoning my family,
who were gathering inside the house,
waiting to serve dinner,
wondering where I was. I knew
he might never appear again,
or only after a long snow, in the middle of the night—
and that I would love him forever,
not in spite of the way he stayed gone
for so long, but because of it.