Cracked Ice, by Julie Sheehan

When I return, I’ll come in clapboard, stained
chestnut, with lead-based paint on radiators,
old-fashioned, and a little bit insane

but sturdy to a fault. A spalting grain
on punky myrtle and no refrigerator
when I return. I’ll come in clapboard, stained

shake shingles skittering on skewed roof planes
that snarl the corner lot like unpaid panders,
old-fashioned and a little bitten, saying,

“Leave our sightlines sharp. Let dormers train
What angles water sheds.” They congregate for
when I return. I’ll come in clapboard, stained

with varnished truth: you ran me down. You caned
old rockers with prefab splints, hack renovator
refashioning me bit by bit, insane

to strip as spilth fine bulrush. I’ll maintain
myself, then. There will be no mediators
when I return. I’ll come in clapboard. Stained,
old-fashioned, I’ll come a little bit insane.

To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like a Death, by Lloyd Schwartz

In today’s paper, a story about our high school drama
teacher evicted from his Carnegie Hall rooftop apartment

made me ache to call you—the only person I know
who’d still remember his talent, his good looks, his self-

absorption. We’d laugh (at what haven’t we laughed?), then
not laugh, wondering what became of him. But I can’t call,

because I don’t know what became of you.

—After sixty years, with no explanation, you’re suddenly
not there. Gone. Phone disconnected. I was afraid

you might be dead. But you’re not dead.

You’ve left, your landlord says. He has your new unlisted
number but insists on “respecting your privacy.” I located

your oldest son, who refuses to tell me anything except that
you’re alive and not ill. Your ex-wife ignores my letters.

What’s happened? Are you in trouble? Something
you’ve done? Something I’ve done?

We used to tell each other everything: our automatic
reference points to childhood pranks, secret codes,

and sexual experiments. How many decades since we started
singing each other “Happy Birthday” every birthday?

(Your last uninhibited rendition is still on my voice mail.)

How often have we exchanged our mutual gratitude—the easy
unthinking kindnesses of long friendship.

This mysterious silence isn’t kind. It keeps me
up at night, bewildered, at some “stage “of grief.

Would your actual death be easier to bear?

I crave your laugh, your quirky takes, your latest
comedy of errors. “When one’s friends hate each other,”

Pound wrote near the end of his life, “how can there be
peace in the world?” We loved each other. Why why why

am I dead to you?

Our birthdays are looming. The older I get, the less and less
I understand this world,

and the people in it.