On my birthday,
I was riding on an ATV
in the dark woods
outside Wooster.
It was Alan, Thad,
and some girl,
maybe Joy,
I don’t remember.
Have you noticed
the people you can’t
remember appear
as a negative,
their face a blur
of paint on the canvas?
How should I know?
I was camp chaplain.
I had just turned twenty-one.
I couldn’t swim or tend a wound,
though I took the training,
and the staff said if you
were hurt I could save you.
Which wasn’t true,
because when I see blood,
I’m a dead bloom.
I’m a sack of grain.
On my birthday,
Alan stole the keys
to the ATV, and we drove
out into the thicket
beyond the row
of big cabins
where the staff slept,
sometimes drank,
sometimes screwed,
Who can know, right?
I was twenty-one.
I had only once
been wasted on a beach
in California,
but I told the story
like I’d lived forever.
I had just once
seen light settling
on a liquid hip
with its wounding grace.
I wanted to trace
where it went, the light.
After memory,
the inevitable,
the engine
flooded in the river,
the yelling.
I walked home
ahead of everyone.
It was my birthday.
We’d lost something
in the woods
but didn’t want to tell anyone.
I wondered how many
forms of shadow
the forest could hold.
I wondered what else
could be lost.

Kyle McCord