How Close is Heaven
There were no footprints in the hard-packed sand
where they walked, bordering the worlds
of water, air, earth. Emanuel wore his coat
close, huddled and hooded from rain and wind.
Cherisse left her shoes by the driftwood log,
socks strewn behind like overblown condoms
limp and spent, as she ran into the waves.
She laughed, kicking foam, fists on her hips,
hornpiping, and called “Manny, come on,
let’s go dancing with our feet in the sea.”
The words gusted away, unheard.
On a brighter day, they climbed,
caressing rock with finger and toe
to hold the world in their palms.
Emanuel paused, breathing hard, pressing
himself into a ledge that split existence
into what had come before and what lay ahead.
Cherisse sang her hands over cracks in the solid wall,
playing the granite’s veins like keys on a piano.
In the stillness, she whispered, “Keep going,
Manny, don’t stop now. We’re cloud-climbing straight to heaven.”
His gasps drowned out the sound of her voice.
This day they walk through grass, green and soft,
thick enough to remain unbent by their passing.
Emanuel carries a rose, a pink one, not red
like blood. He steps carefully, intent and slow
but not halting. Cherisse skips through the trees
like a spring breeze, and tries to tickle his ear.
As Emanuel sets the rose gently on the grave,
she peeks from behind the trunk of a great oak and calls
to him once again. “Oh Cherry,” he cries, brushing dirt
from the headstone, “if only I could hear you one more time.”