The Same City

by Terrance Hayes
For James L. Hayes
 

The rain falling on a night
in mid-December, 
I pull to my father’s engine
wondering how long I’ll remember
this. His car is dead. He connects
jumper cables to his battery, 
then to mine without looking in
at me and the child. Water beads
on the windshields, the road sign, 
his thin blue coat. I’d get out now, 
prove I can stand with him
in the cold, but he told me to stay
with the infant. I wrap her
in the blanket, staring
for what seems like a long time
into her open, toothless mouth, 
and wish she was mine. I feed her
an orange softened first in my mouth, 
chewed gently until the juice runs
down my fingers as I squeeze it
into hers. What could any of this matter
to another man passing on his way
to his family, his radio deafening
the sound of water and breathing
along all the roads bound to his? 
But to rescue a soul is as close
as anyone comes to God. 
Think of Noah lifting a small black bird
from its nest. Think of Joseph, 
raising a son that wasn’t his. 

 

Let me begin again. 
I want to be holy. In rain
I pull to my father’s car
with my girlfriend’s infant. 
She was eight weeks pregnant when we met. 
But we’d make love. We’d make
love below stars and shingles
while her baby kicked between us. 
Perhaps a man whose young child
bears his face, whose wife waits
as he drives home through rain
& darkness, perhaps that man
would call me a fool. So what. 
There is one thing I will remember
all my life. It is as small
& holy as the mouth
of an infant. It is speechless. 
When his car would not stir, 
my father climbed in beside us, 
took the orange from my hand, 
took the baby in his arms. 
In 1974, this man met my mother
for the first time as I cried or slept
in the same city that holds us
tonight. If you ever tell my story, 
say that’s the year I was born.
 

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