by Michael Boccardo

As adults, guilt stitched our hands with galaxies.
We named them: mother, father.

Of those bodies, we charted their inevitable ache,
their echoes, how close regret suited them up, orbiting

their delicate bones. Brother, remember when we trailed them?
Remember when we burned? Them, then ourselves?

We forget what gravity can do. Has done.
How we never mentioned the cruel pulse of each hour

needling our veins, or that we chose to worship
what we couldn’t control: wind, starless nights. Maples

bowing for penance beyond our bedroom windows.
That winter, before the world gauzed

its wounds, I watched our mother fix the zipper
of my coat like a comet against the cold.

As if I were eight again, helpless & nai:ve, pretending
the eclipse behind her eyes wasn’t almost whole.

As if the lawn still yawned in snowy haloes
beneath our father’s boots. As if you, Brother, stood

tall & lean once more, sentry outside the woods
where branches gathered like the hatch to a vessel.

But how careful could we be, even then?
Dodging thorns, nettles. The consequence

of a wrong turn. Or if we’d ever trust the difference
between silence & the absence of breath.

Yet we refused to glance back at the space
they tendered, gauge how far they’d gone,

their faces hazy beacons. It won’t be long
before we weaken the sky’s loosening seam,

flaws unraveling warm in our arms. Let us
patch them with what we think we know of God,

of acceptance, forgiveness. Please—
let us be wrong about everything.

MICHAEL BOCCARDO’s poems have been published in various journals, including Kestrel, Mid-American Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, The Southern Review, Border Crossing, Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, Comstock Review, and Best New Poets 2013, as well as the anthologies Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose, and Art on HIV/AIDS and Southern Poetry Anthology, VII: North Carolina. He is a Pushcart nominee, a past recipient of the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and a finalist for the James Wright Poetry Award. Also, he serves as assistant editor for the poetry journal Cave Wall. He resides in High Point, NC, with three rambunctious tuxedo cats.