The workmen closed our street and sidewalk with striped yellow sawhorses. They noisily drilled up all four corner curbs. Their faces focused, intent on the task. They poured wet cement—raking, smoothing to damp slopes. Cement mixer rumbled and churned—six men, two days of work. Everyone detoured around them.
I could easily have gone out with a nail at sunset to engrave a moon and star in one corner of the blank gray slab, and even if no one else noticed the fresh cement had been inscribed, I would have known, every time I rode my bike down the smooth slope to the old gray street you once crossed on two feet.
It makes me glad I never had to push a wheelchair with you in it down that slope.
Could have written your name, made a heart nearly too tiny to see—metal nail file, ice pick, needle-nose pliers, stick. Those were the days I paused, so stunned, in the middle of everything, as the shock swept over me.
How could you leave your desk?
Telephone numbers in your black notebook, battered briefcase, cup of unsharpened pencils, your pens that never wrote very well, your little Post-it pads? Marc, the nice librarian, his number inked on top of the pad. The last number you ever wrote. Mom cancelled your cell phone two days after you died. I could not believe this. What if you had called us?
Naomi Shihab Nye
Copyright © 2011 by Naomi Shihab Nye
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission