in the city that taught me longing,
I am across the student library,
where I spent a silent hour each day.
All nine floors of it smaller now, less wise,
as time does to every book and parent.
The credit card in my wallet
where my student ID used to be
with all the possible hollowness
of a filled space. Where air is,
surely, emptiness follows, whistling
the heart’s forgotten tunes like a flute.
That’s that. Empty. No true story
of how it was in my time. I just look
them in the eye—youthful strangers
entering the building, taking
their turn in the ride.
They’ve lined up long enough.
There’s the undecipherable magic
of schools: change
in small increments. Every season.
Every year. Soon enough we are
ghosts in the hall. The buildings and the professors
remain like historic terrain—mountains, valleys,
witnesses. And I say here I am, old institution, back
and answerless. Students walking
past. Here I am with the same cup ramen,
the same apple juice, speaking the language
of the habitual cigarette, on the same table
on which I first expected departure and longing
and undervalued their significance.
Here I am with my final report,
which is simple enough, on how it is
to be a little bit older and still learning,
a little more prepared to die.