Forest St. Culvert

Were you just… gone?

Yeah. I blush.

Where were you?

I don’t know.
You were there.
You were ranting
about Corchoran or something.

Vice Principal Corchoran?

I think so.

Wild! That must’ve been lunch,
a few weeks ago.
When I kissed you.

You’ve kissed me?

She socks my arm.

Anyway, what were we talking about?

You were telling me about your dad.
You were in his office. He was working
on something…?

Right. I squeeze her hand.
And he’d just started drawing
The Woman.

The Woman?

Yeah. This woman he drew over
and over. He was drawing her in maghogany riding boots
and a cream-colored dress. I remember
because he almost never used color
before a final print.

I asked what she was doing
in that frame; he said,
Getting dressed.
Dressed for what? Dressed for a big event—
a party.
What kind of party? A fancy one.
I got to Who else is going? and he turned around
with his pencil still
on the paper, and said my time
was up and he had to work.

I shift my head on her collarbone. That comfortable?

She nods.

I think for a second. Actually, he moved
his workspace out of the basement
later that year, into his friend Rusty’s garage.

We’re both silent a moment. I stare into the trees.

What’d you do?

I left.
I went where I felt safe.
The culvert on Brook Path,
under Forest Street.

That was your safe place?
Under Forest Street?

I squeeze her hand again.
I didn’t know about the Reservoir yet.
I’d go there and pretend to fish.
I mean, I’d pretend there were fish
and they’d swim up
to my twig-and-reed line
to be hooked. It was our deal: I called
them into existence, into the brook,
and they’d let me catch them.
I’m really not that complicated.

Why there, though?

I sigh. The light. It’s so bright and shaded
at once, you feel like you’re in someone’s house.
And that clearing
where Caroline Street comes in
as gravel, it always felt
like it was impossible.
How could the town let such a magic
place happen, you know?
My brother used to dream
about running away from the house,
down that way, too.

But… why the culvert?

I’m getting there. I mean, you know: a place
depends on how you get to it.

I like your clever moments.
She squeezes me from shoulder to hip.

I’d stand on one side and pray
if I went in, I could come out
in some other Wellesley, on another
Earth, with other parents
who would listen to me, or at least let
me help them do whatever.
Isn’t that what kids want to do?
Do what their parents do?

Neither of us speaks for a while. Then,
Would you take me there?

You haven’t seen it a thousand times?

Not like that.

I sit up. Okay, when?

How about now?

Okay! Let me get my shoes.
They’re in the ree…

I don’t know why I’m talking.
Was I just talking to someone?

I lie back on the bank
of the brook. Where was I?
It felt warm, like how feeling safe
feels warm.
I wish I could remember
who I was talking to.

The culvert is staring at me
when I look up, like it always does.
All twenty wet, dark feet of it.

I think maybe today
isn’t the best day to go through.
Maybe I should save the chance
for when I really need it.

Added: January 8, 2013 | Last changed: January 23, 2015