How to Keep Them

What you learn from trying to keep them is that you don’t.  That perfectly crisp orange leaf on the sidewalk, taken away by wind. The adolescent turtle near the row of townhouse mailboxes, its body gone the next day as it were trash instead of a lesson. That man, years ago, whom you wanted to stay. The feel of someone’s skin, replaced instead by the weave of their favorite shirt. Someone else’s voice, unheard for so many years that all you have now is what you imagine his voice might have sounded like. The scent of your son while still a baby, asleep on your chest. The near weightless feeling of your own body when you were younger and running so fast you imagined it was as close to flying as one could get each time your foot left the pavement, each time your arms pumped to the feet’s pace, such skinny, featherless wings awaiting lift off.

What you learn from trying to keep them is that you won’t. What you learn from trying to keep them is that sometimes, it is the holding itself that is the problem, all those white clovers crushed in your fists, the other suddenly imperfect and stagnant petals pressed between book pages, that man, years ago, whom you wanted to stay, and so you held and held and held, until it was something broken instead of beautiful. You’ll learn instead to give up things, even your breath to the wind in winter.

Things you’ll keep: your bright burning center, its wants; some photographs; a t-shirt hidden in a closet; even the smallest peace; all the shapes of joy you might find.

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