UNDERSTANDING BACKWARDS


She saw him standing at the crossroads, one foot firmly planted in the dust, the other hovering in mid-air, in mid-step, in mid-moment. He saw her lying sidewise on her bed, stroking her hair with one hand, holding the quilt in a tight fist with the other. She saw him sitting at a table, hands on knees, lips mumbling the ten thousand names in tandem to the night. He saw her, blade in hand, sliding the edge along thigh and shoulder, singing the nursery rhyme - the only nursery rhyme. She saw him smoking the end of a cigarette, a heavy draw in, a stare at the stub in his cradled hand, a flick of ash and an exhale of smoke. He saw her standing in a doorway, head cocked to the left, then to the right, dreaming the dream of magic and reality, each different, yet the same. She saw him sitting on the floor, knees up and bony, an open book lodged between them, reading and rereading the same paragraph over and over. He saw her at the end of life, surrounded by blackbirds, all ready and waiting. She saw him, broken and dying, wizened and dry in a hospital bed...

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