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On the Lunar Eclipse in Early November: For Maya

Grace Sleeman

I will be forty-one the next time the cicadas emerge.

You are visiting your mom in the hospital so I bring you a jar of simple syrup,

still warm, and roses I stole from a church garden. I used my pocket knife

to strip the thorns from the stems. I wait for you outside your house

and we watch the heat lightning flicker in the humid August darkness.

In a few months I will help you clean the dust from the baseboards

in the emptiness of your leaving. November will shred the softness

from the day and leave me bare-handed, low-voiced. I wake

amidst the smell of rotting roses, try to remember the lightness

in my chest standing on that corner with you, watching dry clouds

rumble bright and visceral beyond the mountain range. We wore

cotton dresses and boots, we turned our faces to the sky and

sat on the desiccated grass of the park and sank our fingers into the loam

like that would root us there together, two nodding dandelions.

The cicada songs hummed along my collarbones, the lightning

echoed behind my eyes. You laughed, and I watched you. This is how

religions are born. How else could this be real? Now I stand on that same

corner in the early hours of a November morning with my face turned

to the sky. The shadow of the earth is eclipsing the moon, staining it

bloody red. I am wearing wool and linen these days, those same boots.

I’ll watch the moon in silence, and then I’ll go back to bed.

There’s little to witness here. The moon will eclipse again. I try to root

myself but the ground is frozen. Where are my roses? Where is my knife?

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