When I pulled the pieces of pine needles
from the pockets of your coat, I pictured
you prebirth (my birth), bundled up in
Appalachia beside a small fire built for one,
two curls falling from beneath Grandpa’s wool hat,
a cigarette in one hand and a hatchet in the other.
Gently guiding the needles along the terrain of my hand,
I think about that hazy photograph: you standing,
straddling the peak of Backbone Mountain,
shirtless with your shorts around your ankles,
hairy bare ass and varsity thigh tan lines
splitting the horizon in half.
I reach deeper—my index finger dredging
the inseam of your down coat—remembering
watching you glide the bench plane along strips of cedar,
sipping beer out of silver cans, quickly dropping flies
into that mason jar we kept the black widow in
(the one we hid from Mom), cutting the heads off
the copperheads in the sandbox, taking out your own stitches,
building decks, building forts, building playgrounds, building.
I’m standing outside on a Friday night, pushing
these pine needles around my palm through sweat
from thought and glass, the smell of a cigarette ending.
Do you remember that time in Austin when it was ninety-
eight degrees after nightfall? The rooftop bar on Sixth Street?
When we staggered through the streets “on business”?
Do you remember the way the sidewalk enveloped the trees?
You tripped on a root and apologized. I was twenty-two
and wanted to hold your hand.