This morning I wake up to gratitude - four new poems published in Palooka, selected by editor Jonathan Starke. Two of them are about the loss of my first love, Kelly James Chandler, April 30, 1973, Heaven and Earth. It has been over fifty years, but an April doesn't pass without me thinking of him. I've written about Kelly's life in plays. I've written versions of this poem, April 30, 1973 so many times. I feel instinctively this time I've gotten it right. He died in a car accident a week after his 16th birthday. I've spent a lifetime digesting the loss of this funny and smart and sensitive and wild boy who never became a man. Over many months he sent me a box of letters I still keep. I read them sometimes, because that's where he is still alive and trying to keep himself that way.
At the brook, the mallards cry and flee. Charlie drinks, rippling the surface and inking the reflection of leafless trees. We walk for a long time in the muddy woods under a blank sky. A friend texts me to say hello she is missing my Gulf pictures but she’s glad I’m home. And I am no longer missing the Gulf because I am here and this is where I am living now. This is my habitat, with the mating mallards and Charlie and Suzi and we’re planning a wedding in this habitat. Our first. A wedding on the river under the trees in the time of the sunflower bloom.