he told himself it was nothing. He made up another life

He'd not known he loved her so he let her go.
You know those movies where a bunch of soldiers
jump out the back of a plane? That's how she looked,
falling away through scattered clouds, a dark speck
getting smaller, then nothing. He turned aside.
He felt a squeezing, a pain in his chest, but
he told himself it was nothing. He made up
another life, had some good times, bad times.
Always there was this squeezing but he felt sure
it meant nothing. He built himself a new house,
family; he tried to make his way in the world
as one makes little figurines out of clay,
clay women and children, clay automobiles,
a clay dog to fetch his paper, clay slippers.
Move, he said to the figurines, jump through hoops.
He kept remembering how she'd disappeared
like someone tumbling from the back of a plane.
You know the movie--it's Germany and wartime.
The parachutes drifting down like milkweed seeds
in the rising sun--that's what she looked like,
falling through cloud, a dark speck getting smaller.
Wasn't this the old trouble with adult life,
wasn't there always damage and destruction--
like looking at a wartime landscape, the wrecked
villages, plundered fields, the roads shot to hell?
Sometimes it felt reversed and he was down there
with his little clay life watching the figurines
get blasted to bits. The planes would disappear,
distant specks of silver. He'd see the wreckage,
dead animals, busted machines. This is my life,
he would think, this is what I've made for myself.
Although the sun was rising, the clock had stopped,
the season stopped. The day wasn't beginning,
it had ended. In the sky, there was nothing,
no parachutes or planes, not even birds, just
a vacancy; that's what the pain was, the squeezing,
this absence like the sky itself inside him.

[Stephen Dobyns {1941- }, 'Parachutes,' from Cemetery Nights]

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