Michael Goes to College

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Inevitably, he had to go,
As we had known, but tended
To ignore; for we had pretended
There would always be a tomorrow
Until it was suddenly sorry today
At a sultry airport runway.

His tears matched ours
In those final hours;
Stricken, we had pursued
An artificial, lighter mood;
A hoax destined to phase
Into a sort of shadowy haze
And darkness toward the end.
He fended off despair to wend
His way; momentarily blend
With sober groups, some numb
In salty grief, struck dumb,
Who he would never meet again:
Youths, girl friends and men
And the favored family few,
Engaging in the ritual of adieu.

The father-son closure
Involved barriers of composure,
Externally and shallow
And halting and hollow;
Not making much sense;
Choking over its own pretense;
The encouraging dialogue sought
Also came to naught;
It took flight somewhere
Into the airport air.
Facing a final conversation
And the impending separation
Of half the globe and two oceans,
They stumbled over emotions.

He turned to a wounded mother,
Eyes filling; shaken; torn asunder
By the exit of her first-born
From sound and sight; forlorn;
There was promise-keeping,
Each desperately seeking
To alleviate the hurt; cope
With goodbye, and elevate hope.

He squared his shoulders in feigned
Bravado; there was mutual pain
As we dimly watched him stride,
Toward the Asian plane side;
Wheeling each few steps
To wave at those he left
Behind, heartsick renewed;
And then he was no more in view.
A darkening sky swallowed the plane
And we tried in vain
For conviction it was best
That the young man had gone west.

The household was calmer;
Too quiet, even somber,
For his voice and music died;
And the family tried
To get on with routine;
But life had turned mean;
For long days we failed
To move on; interests had paled.

Missing was talk of bands;
Laughter; those square hands
And blunt fingers stroking
Vibrating strings and stoking
Memories, with a voice that soothed
And entertained; we rued
Disruptive changes deemed necessary.
We sought at times to bury
Our turmoil with busy-ness
But could not evade emptiness.
Even the guitar had flown away
On that sad late summer day;
And his discarded wardrobe,
Outgrown and outmoded,
Only served to remind
Of the vacuum left behind.