Joe Baumann

Joe Baumann

You’re on every newscast: buried under the parking garage, unearthed after the building is demolished. A skeleton with yellowed teeth is all that is left of you, your ribs dusty and chipped.  If someone were to strum them, they would tinkle like xylophone blocks then crumble into sand.  No one is quite sure how long you’ve been buried, but everyone knows it is you: the mother’s son who vanished off the street.  The wife’s husband who left no note, said no goodbye, just didn’t come home from work one rain-soaked night.  The exhausted bachelor’s boyhood friend, who he thought had gone off to college but was never heard from again.  A police chief’s best undercover officer, your body never found.  The craters of your skull fill, muscle and skin pouring in, hair, freckles, lips, those wrinkles and that half-moon scar on the left cheek etched over the bones, the scratchy five-o’clock shadow.  The fiery, red beard.  The blond, wispy mustache.  Shoulders and taut nipples, strong knuckles and large fingernails, imagined tight jeans and leather belts, tennis shoes covering hair-dusted toes.  A lover imagines hips and the warmth of a strong, bare back that she used to run her hand over before the bed was cold with size and absence.  You are formed by distant hands, fingers that will never touch you again.  You are resurrected by memories of smiles and embraces, romances and dinners.

But then a picture—your real nose and eyes and ears and lips—leap across television screens and you disappear again.  You, son, husband, friend, colleague, lover, you, mystery, you, life plucked into the opaque snow of the atmosphere, become a ghost again, a whisper, a glimmer, a wink.  A shifting curtain.  A slamming door.  The creak of a stair in the night.  You suck energy away and you become a small voice again, a breath-held hope, and everyone you left behind waits for the next building to fall so you might come home again.

1 Comment

  1. This really make you think of the sheer depth of every human life that we tend to forget when we hear about a death or a statistic. Fabulous work!

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