Beneath the Stains

She is long gone now.

When you can’t hope to find yourself without her,
you think back, watch
hour-hands twirl like blades, dance
in the direction opposite their instinct and cut
through the grey swell of your present tense.
In the sole quiet moment of a windy afternoon
a child sways on a swing, sketchbook and lungs
both filling with the gently soaring sun
and the fierce, wistful sky
without knowing or caring what any of it might mean.

She is drawing a house as it sits patiently
amid the soil and grass, a house alive with clocks
ticking away every sentiment she coaxes onto the page.
Her lines are drawn
with the tenderness of one who has not yet learned
that when those clocks have spun her along too far
for comfort, their solemn eyes
watching over her like guardian angels with poker faces
(ironically unchanged by the very years
their endlessly circling hands see in and then out again),

she will still be sitting on that swing. Her hips
will be too big for it, and her long legs
too awkward for her weakening momentum to lift her
from the ground. The sun-dappled spot will be a mere remnant
of a girl who could look at that house and see
something more than the countless
unfinished projects never, now, to be complete –
something more than the imperfections riddling
those walls and the peeling paint forsaking
that ceiling – something more than the reality

that it is decay that happens
while we are making other plans. And she will
become who you are today when time lets that last
betrayal settle into place, a tired puzzle piece,
and you will miss the girl who didn’t need
to fool herself into thinking that we are something more
than lonely players in a game we have ourselves
constructed, each searching for a “self”
that has never existed, ever-striving, ever-reaching
at the expense of what any illusion costs: everything.

But she is long gone now.


PS. Prompt: “Beneath the stains of time, the feelings disappear./ You are someone else; I am still right here” – Nine Inch Nails