All the things I cannot say that hurt

swell and catch in my throat

whenever I am at the playground

trying to talk to the mother

of my son's best friend

that he has met two minutes ago.


With parched mouth, I 

manage to make sounds like words

that mean nothing and lead nowhere.

"How old is your son?"

"How long have you lived here?"

"What do you like to do

in the spare time you do not have?"


In that arid, aching exchange, I 

remember why I line my life

with books, the friends that

make no bones about what they are,

that do not bother with banal,

unpleasant pleasantries,

that will be your lifelong friends in two minutes

so long as you venture to give them your

sustained attention

           into the ages,

the friends that say all the things that hurt

and watch as they swell, catch in my throat,

and push upward into the smokeless air.