I stood on one foot for three minutes & didn’t tilt the scales. Do you remember how quickly we scrambled up an oak leaning out over the creek, how easy to trust the water to break our glorious leaps? The body remembers every wish one lives for or doesn’t, or even horror. Our dance was a rally in sunny leaves, then quick as anything, Johnny Dickson was up opening his arms wide in the tallest oak, waving to the sky, & in the flick of an eye he was a buffalo fish gigged, pleading for help, voiceless. Bigger & stronger, he knew every turn in the creek past his back door, but now he was cooing like a brown dove in a trap of twigs. A water-honed spear of kindling jutted up, as if it were the point of our folly & humbug on a Sunday afternoon, right? Five of us carried him home through the thicket, our feet cutting a new path, running in sleep years later. We were young as condom-balloons flowering crabapple trees in double bloom & had a world of baleful hope & breath. Does Johnny run fingers over the thick welt on his belly, days we were still invincible? Sometimes I spend half a day feeling for bones in my body, humming a half-forgotten ballad on a park bench a long ways from home. The body remembers the berry bushes heavy with sweetness shivering in a lonely woods, but I doubt it knows words live longer than clay & spit of flesh, as rock-bottom love. Is it easier to remember pleasure or does hurt ease truest hunger? That summer, rocking back & forth, uprooting what’s to come, the shadow of the tree weighed as much as a man.
Copyright © 2019 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 1, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.