Camouflage, Nick Lachance
Last night I saw you in the field outside my window.
It was light out, although I knew it was nighttime
when I saw you, and I could tell that you had been
laboring at something.
You looked so tired then,
with your back hunched over,
your hands gripping the tops of your knees,
hanging onto your dirty jeans as you caught your breath.
You looked so skinny then,
wearing my favorite red flannel shirt,
the one that clung to your stomach and arms
and made me want to hold you –
the one that made you look so soft,
at the same time –
like you could protect me,
and in that protection,
I was somehow protecting you.
The red flannel shirt hung on you as if on a coat rack,
all baggy and without shape,
and I began to question if half of you had disappeared
since I last saw you outside my window,
smiling, your cheeks full and balmy
from your labor,
cutting down the dead tree in my backyard.
You looked less full than when I once knew you,
and all I could see was your taut skin and bones,
so white and hard.
I watched as you stood up straight and took a deep breath.
Your hollow cheeks puffed out
then sunk back into their new sickly shape,
a tease of how full they had once been.
Right then, I had wanted to ask you to come to me,
to let me feed you, but I couldn’t move,
and I couldn’t see anything except this window,
this framed glass that was separating me
from you, as if you
were a participant in one of my experiments.
Yet, I knew that I could not feed you.
I had nothing to give.
You assembled the chopped wood of the tree
you had disemboweled for me, the last time I saw you,
into a pile so neat and careful it looked
as though you were building a person,
making sure that they were whole,
their parts all there and complete.
I watched as you looked for me through the window,
passing from one side of the yard to the other,
attempting to arrange the tree into how it once stood,
but I knew that you could not see me.
It was too dark inside and the sun was shining so brightly then.
You had become a glimmer of a man,
and I could barely see you because you were
as bright as the sky,
disappearing into everything and ever-present
like every man I’ve ever loved,
like my grandfather and my father,
and I knew that you would never recover.