Clay Marble
by Ed Madden

It was the delicate blue of the phrase
that held him, like a neutral sky
in which the sun rests, a white clay marble,

burnished pearl by palms and sweat,
the marble he found buried
in the soil of the barn near the house

where his father had once lived.
He spat on it, rubbed it on his jeans
until the brown became only a stain

of the hue, like tobacco juice, worked
into the dull baked sheen.
So a November sky would hold

his attention, its hesitant blue
soft yet clear, of uncertain lineage,
uncertain ends.  So the past rests,

an old discovery, a marble, pale
against hand-me-down denim.
So his younger brother had said, "Maybe

there are some things you shouldn't tell us."
Shared stories diverge in ways
they could never have known.  He still

has the marble, and all it represents:
the past he holds -- a fiction
of young boys at play, thumbing random

bonds, vectors of desire and chance, and one
chosen silence, that November afternoon,
resting in the blue spaces between them.

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