We drove up mountain roads
above the din and tenor of Los Angeles
to witness the Perseid meteor shower.
We were teenagers, planting ourselves
like stone against juniper and snapdragons,
alluvial washes, nestled with fir and pine.
We were rocks hewed by river
and flood. We quoted Nietzsche
and declared absolute truths,
sharing coffee from a dented thermos.
As darkness settled, I sat next to Tony
on a jagged boulder, white boy
with an afro, thin and kind, his skin
like eggshell. I wanted to kiss him
but didn’t know it then.
I remember only his quiet glow,
curls reflected against stripped tree bark,
when he said, Alicia do you know
you are beautiful? I wanted the sound of him,
like savoring the last bit of rhubarb
that’s got the sweet to sour ratio just right.
Troopers found Tony’s body
by the side of another mountain,
in North Carolina. He’d taken his life.
I wish I’d told him he was my only friend
who could stare at a painting
for as long as I could,
but no wish could turn that meteor
back on itself to land at our feet.
When you’re seventeen,
you don’t know that something
someone says will feel like love,
on a mountain, the scent of dew
and sage tearing across the sky
one generous syllable at a time.