So as not to send the body into shock when you stopped, in secret, I knew
you’d started cutting back the dose. Didn’t I feel myself diminishing,
diminished, as I watched for signs? Evenings, we’d walk through Blackburn Park,
pausing before those two, nearly fused, trees. They were shape without name until you
called them poplars. It goes without saying, I never questioned anything you said.
Depending on the day they seemed to embrace, or brace for impact.
Like everything that hinges on perspective, we see most what we want
or fear. When you’d catch me studying your face I’d fake a smile to see you smiling back.
Each morning, facing backwards on the train ride into work, I’d stare through
Plexiglas at the scroll of pines, then chain link wound with barbed wire framing construction sites
where tractors went on gouging the red earth. Then the tunnel. Then intermittent darkness
and my own sad face looking back. One morning, emerging from the tunnel, [End Page 111]
the train stalled. It felt, somehow, familiar— a group of strangers, suspended
between here and there. Each of us mumbling and leaning toward the light. [End Page 112]
Wayne Johns’s manuscript, “Words Without Songs,” has been a finalist for the Wick Poetry Prize and the National Poetry Series, among others. His work has been published in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, court green, and Image. This past summer he was a resident at the Vermont Studio Center, and he recently began taking courses at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.