By Joe Engel
Seeing your name, Jason,
etched in the red brick below me
I recall you most
in the summer of 1984.
You so trustworthy, so good,
I allowed you into our fort,
made of branches in a half circle
against a fence, like a teepee,
to see the collection
of magazines my neighbor snuck
from his grandads collection.
I told you where they came from
as I peeled back the pages;
just a gaze, unchanged, lingering
over a magazine filled with women’s figures
that I heard sing.
No approval, or disapproval.
No comment, or sign of awe.
I didn’t bring those out again
with you around. It felt wrong.
Instead, we rode our BMX bikes
through the dirt tracks in the fields.
Out to the ponds
filled with tires and tad poles.
I don’t remember much of our conversations,
but know I didn’t make you laugh
even though, to everyone else, I was a hoot.
I liked you for that.
When you spoke I believed you
and I, in turn, had to say something true.
At the end of summer,
my mom took a job,
and we moved a few miles north
I have a memory that I rode
my BMX seven miles to visit you,
you were not home
and I rode back alone. I don’t know
if this memory is a dream,
but it holds truth.
Our friendship was lost in location,
covered in the brush of adolescence.
I would pass you
in the Junior High halls
where you walked with the kids
from the old neighborhood;
long hair and fuzzy stubble
virginity no longer a worry at thirteen,
and still, virtue clung to you,
you didn’t need to smile,
you didn’t need to prove this.
I wonder if you wanted that.
The brick I stand over
is yours, donated, dedicated
to your memory, it says 2001,
your name carved into it in black
surrounded by a hundred others.
I just happened upon it
like a seed blown from your life,
never taken root, blown
here to feel the lack.
You were 24.
Someone said it was because of love,
there is just no way, they said,
that there was more.