The Lasts of Summer

I stumble into the last
mile, the last sunroof
of summer, the last weed

cracking the asphalt.
I sit in an empty church
in a green upholstered chair
and my eyes fall

to the piano, its deep brown curves
naked and lonely and open
like the throat of a bird.

In the beginners’ music books
I find a song about owls
and the forest,

with the redwoods walking
towards the water and fingers
falling down a scale, breaking
onto the white sand.

I miss them, the trees
named after the color of blood.

When we open
their skins, digging
into their scars
to pull back their bark

we find rings. Rings
we wear or collect
around our wrists, ankles,

rings like rose windows.
I want to glimpse their panes,
playing hide-and-seek
behind the thick trees

casting their light
through leaves
and onto my body.

I could lie down
in the fabled light
and let the roots grow
over me—

My grandfather wants to die
here. He wants his children
to carry him there,
to walk away.
I only want to climb

until there is nothing above me.
Until I stood on the steeple
and held onto its branches, unafraid

of its sway, of the ground,
of the river running forward
and away.

It is the last hot day
and my skin clings tight
to my trunk,

a ring around
my heart.
It is my last faith
that I will return there

with you, or my child
and I will point and remember

how I climbed inside
a fallen redwood
and found it hollow,

acoustic and alive.

Ben Read lives in Spokane, Washington, where he is a junior at Lewis and Clark High School. He has been recognized by inroads, RiverLit, Airplane Reading, and The Adroit Journal. Other than writing, he likes to assault people with philosophy while participating in speech and debate, attend and read at local poetry slams in tiny coffee and burrito shops, and listen to music similar to the Juno soundtrack. He wishes his dog Wally would be a better muse, but until then, he’ll have to stick with the river.

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