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The Ones That Got Away

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

We’re into the long days now in New England. Days of early light and lingering twilight well into the evening. I wake to the sound of fishermen racing to seize their moment, wondering at the urgency of a favorite fishing spot when the entire bay is full of fish. They fish with purpose. Purpose brings intensity and competition. I know these things, even if I don’t share their commitment to fishing before the sun rises. I use that time for other things.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

I don’t understand the lure of fishing but I understand the pull of the open water. I know the call of the early morning air. I imagine the Striper are running just below the surface as I watch the water. The lilacs are out and so they must be too. Lilacs come and go so quickly, don’t they? So, it seems, do the Striper.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Every year we go through this, these fishermen and women out on the water and me watching from shore. The boats change and so do the characters in them, but still the fish run with the tides. This year feels more optimistic than last year. We’ve all come through something together, even if we aren’t quite there yet. But the Striper don’t care a lick what we’ve been through.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.
-Naomi Shihab Nye, Burning the Old Year

So many of these moments disappear like sparks into the night sky. We burn through days like firewood, and make the most of so few of them. So much of our time burns away, and we’re left holding on to scraps of memorable. While contemplating the ones that got away.

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