The first picture of a person

The Laugh

She left me these many years ago
to travel on her way.
She left me here and as comes
from each to each
I am stooped and gray.

Her image faded, her actions lost,
mannerisms clouded,
her voice retreated into blackness,
but through the miles and over the years
her laugh remained.

Her laugh that cut through crowded rooms
and announced her traveling on her way,
her laugh which grew my heart
and softened the melancholy day.
It was the last piece of her,
that one, true piece
she couldn’t hide from the world,
the piece that was her unbridled, free self
set out, vulnerable and joyous.

Yet, on a day when I had no inkling of it coming,
that laugh faded too.

I married and produced a son,
then a daughter, then another,
and toiled the fields and
sold my wares,
my wife and I were happy
and I thought little of the one
beyond the sea.

More years passed into ash and stone,
into all we had built it to be,
and my wife took sick,
and on a Sunday morning,
when the rest of the town
sat in pews
and crossed themselves in pews
and confessed their sins
and prayed,
my wife died.

The children came to visit,
and then their children too
and I grew small
and hard of hearing—
nearsighted too.

Now they are each too busy,
far away and free of me,
and I lie in this bed
and make out what shapes I can
through the haze of cataracts.

I have little left to me
yet in the dark
when the world is asleep
and I am the only one left,
scuffling through empty rooms
in slippers a size too big,
her laugh comes—
over the years
and beyond the continents,
through the storms and endless sky,
that laugh,
of youth and searching and restlessness
and fear and joy and exploration
and need and love and want,
that laugh comes one last time
and fills the room
and the world without
and my eyes well up as
my own laugh comes and
it holds me and wraps me up
in one echoing chamber,
and recedes to a murmur,
as if in another room,
then slides into my heart
as I happily slip away.


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