Most of all, he loved that inside the covers of books resided the last vestiges of a lost world. They had survived the long winters on the surface, trapped beneath rubble or buried in bunkers, when their authors had not. The tragedy of it lent an air of melodrama to their splendid adventures. Even as a child, Ferdinand recognized in them a rare fellowship. Here were his compatriots, for they suffered from his same affliction: together, they were wholly, completely alone.

someday, we’ll sit here
again, together
where once we broke the bottle
between us—
three ways;

we’ll share a place
at the edge of the water
where i ran my hands over
the shape of the news;

i’ll unpack the breath
that got lost on the phone line
somewhere over canada
or maybe yakutsk
and we’ll share it between us
for the moment that it lasts;

then i’ll spread out the notes
written on the back of magazines
and last month’s bills
and we’ll fold them
into paper boats;

i’ll start a fire.
you be the waves.

when they say: you’ll move on
they mean to say: it will hurt less, someday
it will hurt less together,


but they have not thought
about that day at all;
they haven’t—
no, not really—

not at all.

i’ll have lines on my hands
and the grey that you said
we would dye from my hair;
and eighty years of stories
in my grandmother’s bones.

i will be old, but

you were twenty-five
when you slept there on my sofa
and we walked to the water;
you were twenty-five
when the day
climbed under our fingernails
so we could not scrub it out;

you were twenty-five
in your office;
you were twenty-five on the plane;

you were twenty-five
this morning, and
on the morning i was married, and

on the morning that you died.

by the water,
you will be twenty-five
and your skin will be your skin
and your eyes will be your eyes;

but my skin
will be the skin
of an old, wise woman
and your eyes will seem to me
like the eyes
of my children’s children

and i
will know only the space between us—
only the moving on—

and so remember,

by the water

that you must not laugh
to find
your number right there,

where you saved it,
in my phone.