Excerpt #111, Rocking-Chair Moon

The Dresser
—Carly

I have a feeling Ben could figure out
a way to struggle through this task
by himself, but he’s always been good
at making his little sister feel helpful,
even when I’m feeling helpless,
and he calls me
the night before the big event
and asks me to show up at the church
a half-hour before pictures are scheduled,
because he remembers
my talent with the tie,
and if I think he was incompetent then,
I should see him now,
and I say I’d be thrilled to perform
another feat of fashion artistry,
I’d hoped to get another chance
to help him out someday,

and that was true, once,
but now I mostly wish
there was no need for me to be helpful,

no reason.

 

Wedding Day
—Ben

I’m standing on the stage again,
waiting to step off on another adventure,
into another boundless world,
no irreverent air horns this time,
no false promises, no unfettered expectations,
no fiction masquerading as reality,

just the plain truth of whatever’s coming
down the road,
and my five senses, waiting to take it in,
and my sixth sense
(and your hand, warm like September, in mine),

telling me that the man,
the one who’s been boogying all over
the dark surfaces of my life
for the past two decades or so,
has finally been unmasked, exposed,
revealed as nothing more than
a street corner peddler selling fake watches
from the pockets
of his imitation leather overcoat,

a TV preacher sandwiching money-grubbing
between slices of damnation and salvation,
a stubby imposter
standing behind a plastic curtain, pulling levers,
talking in a big amplified voice like a wizard
of bad tidings and fear and threats,
empty now.

 

Mystery Guest
—Carly

Ben tells me with a cagey wink
that he and Megan invited a mystery guest
to their close-friends-and-families-only
wedding,
so as I stand with Mom and Grandpa
in the vestibule of St. Pat’s,
saying hello to folks
who don’t look especially mysterious,
I scan the trickling stream of arrivals
for an unexpected face,

but there are no surprises
—even Holly’s welcome appearance
(Any pal of yours is a pal of ours)
was previewed on the list—
and with ten minutes until show time and
only stragglers sheepishly rushing in,
I make up my mind Ben’s put one over
on me, just to raise my involvement level
to the breaking point,

but then Grandpa says Wow
kind of under his breath,
and through the big doorway
strides a woman, close to Grandpa’s age
but youthfully luminescent
in a dress the color of a lemon,
her smile lighting up the murky room,

and I don’t recognize her
—the mystery guest?—but just behind her,
his hand resting gently on her shoulder
and his familiar smile matching hers,
walks a man I do recognize,
although he’s dressed unfamiliarly
in a suit and tie, not a raggedy T-shirt
and shorts and scruffy red shoes,

and as he and his friend hurry up to us,
I get ready to say hello
to the real mystery guest,
Jonas Felder,
my long-ago and lingering guardian angel,
the running man,

the man who showed Ben and me
what it means to keep on moving,
to keep putting one mud-caked shoe
in front of the other,
even when it feels
as if the path is all uphill
and littered with the slippery,
fallen leaves of life.

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