So it’s agreed, then: whichever of us
goes first into the unknown country
will return and tell the other what it’s like.

We’ve always had our bodies and each other
to rely on, hoist baggage onto trains,
remember passports and boarding passes,
decipher maps and signs in foreign
languages. Whoever’s first will go alone
and disembodied into the afterlife,
unschooled in its weather and geography,
its people and their pastimes.

The guidebooks

give few particulars. Is it true there’ll be
no marriage there? Are there mornings when
the fallen leaves are lightly furred with frost?
When the air is crisp as bitten apple?
When the yeasty tang of rising bread dough
fills the kitchen?

If you cross that border

first and return as promised to the room
where we reveled in the warmth of goose down
on winter nights; if you stand beside
our bed as though struck dumb, wavering
between presence and absence, I will know
what you can’t bring yourself to tell me.


Milton J. Bates is the author of a poetry collection, Stand Still in the Light, published in fall 2019 by Finishing Line Press. His previous publications include two poetry chapbooks and several nonfiction books. He lives in Marquette, Michigan.


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