I met your family in Holland.
It was winter and the frost crept across
the window panes like a slowly rising tide.
You placed your hand against it for
the memory of warmth and the light struck
your skin into fairness, something pale
and carefully bred.
Your mother set the table that night with care,
porcelain plates with veins of blue; I
tried to memorize the sure gestures of
her hands and wrists in the air,
watched the way your brother's hair
curled against his ears. I didn't know them.
I didn't know their words and their crisp laughs,
didn't know this smile of yours - soft
and bright at the edges from the fireplace,
didn't know the lenient slope of your back
against the chair and looseness of your shoulders.
I didn't know any of it, not the pairs of
nearly familiar eyes, not how easily
your fingers met his across the table,
butter and salt and napkins passed between
hands, all thin and angled. The sort
made for aristocracy, pages of inked letters,
for aged paintings and light touches.
Evening, and the laughter was dissolving into
something quieter in the air,
darkened room lit up by the last gleaming sparks
of fire and illuminated metal.
I sat by the window and watched
your nephews, sweaters matching
and hair light, eyes wide; watched them
and the glint of gold on one hand.
Said, you're too young for marriage.
He frowned and kept staring at the small press
of his hand against the glass, how the ring
was too large of a circle, too grand of a statement,
how it had slipped to the base of his finger and
stayed there - a forced fit, unnatural.
It was a stolen ring, a stolen promise.
The frost was seeping back, pressed against the edges
of his nails, swallowing the outline of another
handprint, only hours old. I wanted to reach out,
to say something, but the feeling stayed stuck
in my lungs, frozen, reluctant. Scared.
We left two days later.
The second of January and it was
too early for the rivers to melt,
too early for color and comfort. You
didn't seem to mind, something about
the lack of impurities in the whiteness
all around us made the pigments
in your eyes more concentrated, your
bones thinner, your mouth redder.
Something about the unrelenting,
frigidly elegant land pulled you together,
and you were at once more solidly tangible
than ever and larger than your shadow.
Your voice sliced into the air and traveled
for miles. I stared up into the sky and
wondered if I had ever had you, or if your
heart and lungs and blood had always stayed
behind in this land, in this season,
in regal hands belonging to people
I had never known.
Rather horrifically unpolished, I have to say. Cranked out and reread far too often in the past 45 minutes or so.