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ode for the summer before a friend leaves for college by. september lin

there’s a prudence in the way he looks at the sun,

a calculated tilt of the head, an aversion of his gaze in a way that feels

more challenge than retreat. it is only

under the rain that they see the bridge of his smile drop

into a canyon of deeper joy that echoes with his laughter

and the sound of rain roaring around them. it mirrors the blood

roaring through their veins as they run through a field and spin,

eyes focused on him as their solid point to keep their balance as the ground

becomes a suggestion under their feet and they come the closest

they’ve ever been to flight. they spin as the hands on the clock spool out

and the roar diminishes to static and

it’s a funny thing that’s happening as they spin,

instead of smoothing between their thoughts into sugar & dissolving

instantly, the memory crystallizes like salt. months later, they’ll suck on it

until their mouth is dry but they’ll love it because the sugar wore

a hole in their mouth that their tongue lands on just to make sure it’s really not there.

in that field they reach for his hand as he spins just a bit too far away,

and in the space between them they can see that

what they’re doing is a funny thing, like playing chicken with themself or

some inevitability as a nemesis. like gravity. like driving their car off

a cliff. like time,

which is a sort of warm rain that washes all sharp things away. where

they can close their eyes and all of the pain dissolves,

but so does the inhalation at talking to him,

the feel of the bones in his hand as he gripped theirs

for a handshake the week before he left. more than anything,

i’m sorry.

that feels like the wrong word but i don’t know what else to say that means

i know, i regret, i wish i’d clung tighter to memory. there is a part of me

that always knew i could never savor anything. that knew i could never

write an ode before an elegy. that knew i never

love anyone as much as right after they leave. that knows every

love poem i write slips into a regret poem when my back is turned.

that knows you are right now opening under the rain,

reaching your fingers to the sky in prayer to the gods

of your new city. i am still

in that field with my eyes closed, trying to focus

on something too far back for light. i am spinning

in the only way that makes sense i am slipping

away like the petrichor on your driveway.


September Lin (they/them) is a young writer with a complicated relationship with summer, who keeps accidentally writing love poems. They are enthusiastic about words & all the things they can do and all the places this takes them.

Painting by. Gustav Klimt

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