Reginald Shepherd

April 10, 1963 – September 10, 2008 / New York City

Until She Returns

This is how I say it ends, Bronx County, 1978.
Packed up all my cares and woe in a plastic
garbage bag. It took an hour, maybe

I take myself into the river of salt
for pages at a time, lying for the sake of
accuracy. All that summer it was winter; I said it
for her sake.

(For a year after she died
I dreamed of her; she came to say
she was just hiding. Death was just
a place to stay, a drift of cloud smeared half-way into
snow. I watched it fall.) (It never snowed there,
pine needles on red clay and heat-reek of the paper mill
for months. Mere decor, you might say, caves of kudzu
and no sidewalks. I missed sidewalks
most of all.) Some Thursday’s drift of cloud stole forty years
in passing, and an extra for good luck. Some other spring
I’ll give them back.

Days spent
curled around a tattered name, erased: white
piss-smelling flowers, intimate
spring air against the throat, some warmth
not far enough away. My little sister said
we’ll have to find another…; we were named
after each other, before the fact. Who isn’t her these days?
Hat boxes and a closet full of coats with fur collars,
someone to betray over and over. (The personal effects
incinerated, with no one to say
mine. I’ll take the rhinestone buckles on the shoes.)

When death comes he’ll be a fine young man
and I will kiss his rotten lips and find her there.
Here I go, singing low.
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