It’s the “oh” you let escape
when I say my name, recognition quickly followed
by the familiar “What’s happenin’?”
and I am thirteen again,
back in your old green pickup, ripped
seats, empty coke bottle, your spittoon, sour
smell rising up in August heat.
You tell me your plans, how you want
to move down south where there’s not
so much snow. You don’t say
where there’s no family.
I do not tell you about how my two-year-old makes me laugh
by saying, of all things, “hey, bob!”
or about the dimples he inherited from I don’t know
who. I do not tell you my four-year-old asked
this morning, “Are we all going to die?”
I do not tell you my youngest is dead-weight
heavy when sleeping. His arms fling around my shoulders
his blonde hair curls with sweat around his forehead.
I do not admit that I hold him longer than I need
just so I can feel all twenty-eight pounds of him in my arms,
so I can soak up his stillness and the smell of sunblock, sweat,
and baby all mixed together.
Instead, I ask how you are feeling and listen
as a hospital monitor alarm goes off.
You end our conversation saying, “Call me once in a while.”
I am the first to say I love you.
Just in case it is another six years before you ask me,