The lake was too cold for swimming. We stripped
bare anyway. Dipped, our bodies chilled,
our wet skin brightened with sun. Leaves flanked
the banks in browning folds. The corn was cut
in jagged rows. The hour gold. If we could go
just like that, death gentle, almost serene,
soft like two old lovers holding hands,
it wouldn’t be so bad.

As expected,
nothing remotely sexy happened, and
it was good. Later drying by the fire,
we could still hear the crickets strum though
the autumn was near half gone­­–the moon
a fattening sliver waxing large.
We had both set our eyes in the fire
for some time, when you, remarking upon
the lonesomeness of your most recent months,
recalled a line of poetry you’d read,
In my solitude are many mansions.

By this time, the stars were brightening
in the navy dark of the sky. Who’s to say
who reached and took whose hand first? Perhaps these
details are never recorded. Who’s to say
how long we sat there hand in hand observing
the fire in between long glances
meant to study the light playing on each
other’s faces?
As I drove home that night,
I was nearly certain we could, if nothing
more, save each other.

That year it snowed early,
a deep dusting over the cut brown fields
around town. In the streets a murky
blackish slush emerged by mid­morning;
it mingled with soggy clumps of leaves,
clotted brush, fallen branches. (It seems
the branch will break.) The lake by then was barely
frozen, growing thin sheets of crystal
that hardly bore even that small weight of snow.

I can’t explain it, yet this was somehow
like at your funeral how I’d wanted
to reach out and squeeze your hand, but your eyes
were sewn tight, and the skin over your hands
looked too thin to bear the weight of even
my small touch.

Odd how the elements sometimes
seem to echo our longings, as if they,
wished us well. As if they could not forget
the gold the fire fixed on your face that night:
they, too, believed fiercely, despite the evidence,
the world might one day ring in harmony
like a struck bell, burnished with a dark and
holy light.

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Joshua Huber lives in Columbia, MO with his wife Angela. He recently graduated from the Masters of English program at the University of Missouri and now teaches at several schools in the area. His various works have appeared (or are set to appear) in Storyscape, Foliate Oak, Bridge Eight, Scissors & Spackle, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere.

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Image by Aitor Méndez from Spain – via Wikimedia Commons.