Miles

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By Glenn Vincent Atanacio

We never end in peace,
Never mutilate bare designs to make ends
Meet–not when she holds
The doorknob like porcelain,
Fingers enfolding the clumsy click;
Or when he tumbles into the open
Road, walking away from house, back-
Yard, her graceless need
For change.

Does he really think I'm still not over him? she asks
Me while she thumbs through her journal.
Far is that day in May when
They looked out a friend's window, counting
Passengers in jeepney's passing,
Or June, splurging afternoons
In parks.

She does need him–
The way she needs journals, doorknobs,
Windows, those
Things we open with intention
To close: a necessary hesitation,
An awkward cord of doubt.

Her distance bends him.
He reckons that, it's not yet time to turn away.
Far is that day in August when
Drizzle pierced the sky and she said,
It's better we stay in the garage–tugging his arm
As if she needed to keep
Him, needed the minutes to remain.

Now, when he looks back at her,
Back at the window where
They stare and count,
He studies the jeepneys–moving slowly
Like words I struggle to write–and sums
Not the passengers but the passing
Miles.

***

Mile, if there is a plan or destination,
A purpose for all sea, where is our harbor,

Our certainty after translation? Why
Do the steps we seize bend us more

Into lesser people? It is as if we are crossing
Long lands, with sight closed, sensing

Familiar places fall smaller, and smaller:
Hesitant knocks, passing strangers–

The faltering traces of time's brutal
Abandoning: the house in Las Piñas,

Dog's name, the colorless patches
Of land where walls rise. These are

Our lives the minute we left them,
Our imprisoned and phantom pasts.

We walk away, our steps replacing
Each memory, forward into another story.

We have changed yet we have not.

***

The story tells me I should wait for
a month,
While the radio hushes
Out of the picture,
And my brother's child
Fails to hear herself cry. The picture turns,
Awkwardly, like the sight of fingers halting
Above a crib
To suddenly hold your

Forehead.
This is time's tottering connection,
A baby struggling to speak
Only to cry.
When she was born, I counted my blessings
And struggled to understand
The ready smallness of things:
Her little hand clasping
My larger thumb, mouth
Without teeth, the possibility
Of hair–another piece
In a clumsy premature stab

At life.
I count my blessings and continue to take.
When I touch her forehead and remember
How small I used to be, I take:
Neck, chest, toes–-each body part is a realization,
A new sun to look forward to.
Partly, this is possession, a picture of days and years
And what we can produce: jobs, poems,
Marriage,

And children.
At the hospital, waiting for doctors
To tell me she can hear,
I am as small as her forehead.
Beside vendos and long faces,
I rest in line, wordless. If ever I said
Or held anything in life, in waiting,
It's something I have lost.
Possession is a turning

Heart,
A pregnant mile that dogs
And widens away: old relationships bog
Down, strong people fall
Apart, pictures fade by and by.
If possession leads to peace, it's one
Of loss, of fair relenting.
Watching the child,
I sense the story beckon. Soon, it will be
Ten years. If she learns to hear,
Then she can speak. She ambles home to

Meet us.
Speaking, her body brims with
Possibilities–words that when perused
Too long will falter.
We talk about the ways we want
To live: a house in the south
With big windows, straight footsteps
As we walk, and a road stretching
Forward to the life we seek–
Yawning fjord, clear horizon,
A sky for things we fail to keep.

Montage Vol. 10 • December 2006