The Town Center

Just across from the Embarras River, boys,
their hair wet from swimming nearby
gravel pits, ride the cemetery, careful not
to tire recently-placed flowers while pedaling
overgrowth and figure-eight paths from days
before.

When the sun starts to set, they know
to head home, their mothers’ lingering
beef stew just blocks away. Often,
one boy’s bike lags behind, reading,
under his mini headlight, a neighbor’s
marker, sometimes fingering the engraved,
Episcopalian cross, then subtracting
the man’s lifespan until it becomes almost
scary-dark, he attempts a few wheelies
and races home.

In twelve years, this boy will take his out-
of-town girlfriend to this cemetery’s daylilies
and overgrown shrubs, the river’s burbling
their accompanist. He will point out quieted
friends while her hand rests in his,
and she will smile, as she imagines him
younger and circling.

They will continue this tradition, these visits,
after the boy’s now motorized bike takes him
to other towns, highways, State Road 58
the night he crashes his front tire
and helmeted head into its steel beams,
away

from the cresting river that will call
to his girl, her presence. For hours, the lush
grass will loop her bike, divining her
own cemetery paths, her head loose
in the heavy air, and she will meld
into him, his past, their unborn child
who now rides in tandem, dropping
a daisy
each time she passes
his engraved name, each time
she passes
his home.

Amy Lerman was born and raised on Miami Beach, moved to the Midwest for many years, and now lives with her husband and very spoiled cats in the Arizona desert, where she is residential English Faculty at Mesa Community College. She received her Master’s and Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Kansas, and her poems have appeared in Rattle, Smartish Pace, Common Ground Review, Prime Number Magazine, Solstice, and other publications.

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