by Sally Cole Mooney
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There was this time, this small window of time, When I'd wake up early, before the others, And him, and the dog, and come down to find you there alone. Alone, I, one of five, and a twin at that. And you'd say, "Tommy, come over here!" You'd be leafing through a magazine, through Arizona Highways: We'd look together at this world that couldn't be for real. Those colors couldn't be, that sky, those peaks. But you said, yes, yes they were, and we were going there. We'd climb those buttes, we'd have a swimming pool And orange trees in our yard. We looked together, you and I, in the gray Kentucky dawn.

And damned if you didn't deliver! I couldn't believe my luck. Eight years old, turned loose in a place like that, Cottonwoods and ditches, desert air and non-stop sun. We'd be gone all day and no one blinked an eye In 1959, before the faces on milk cartons, Richard Speck, Charles Manson. . . God, before the Beatles! We were wild because you let us be. You wanted us to see it all. We, all of us.

I don't think I ever had you to myself again, After those mornings and, before that, the morning I was born first, Twenty minutes ahead of him. I like to think you held me Wet on your belly for that small window of time, Before the next one came. Beamed and hung on me your father's name. Thomas Hascall Cole for twenty minutes, your only son.

And then came Steve and sixteen short months later, Jeff, With the girls there already And the dogs and, Lord, the friends, All piled into the station wagon, ripe for adventure. We'd drive into the desert on the weekends for breakfast, You pumping up that old, green Coleman stove. We'd drive for hours after work on Friday Just to wake up in a sleeping bag on a Mexican beach. And when we'd pile back into the car on Sunday, you'd stand there Looking, for a few last minutes, looking, out at the sea, Holding it against the hard times ahead.

And hard they were, after you headed north Out of the desert, into the pines, to Flagstaff. You said "Everyone should build their own house once in their lives."

And you did, board by board Hammered and leveled and poured cement. You tilted that house so it caught the mountain in its mouth Like some glossy magazine spread, that big wedge of stillness Framed just for the looking.

And that's where it happened, like some cosmic joke. Five children. And struck there in the ovaries. But you didn't flinch. You said, "You take what you get dealt"--yours all deuces--but you held them Dry-eyed, held them, knowing your time was up.

That's when we met alone again. You told me, "Tom, I was driving on the old cinder road, when I turned the corner And there they were, the aspens, white bark, yellow leaves Against the sky. Tom," you said, "I burst into tears."

And, don't you know, I had them. For the first time in my life had Just the words there in my mouth all ready to go. And damned if there weren't five of them too, simple and heart-true, Those words that I, Tom, the twin, didn't say, didn't say to you About the aspens: "I'll be looking for you." No. I held them, when you might have had them--my gift-- Might have ridden them right out of here In that last gray dawn with nothing left to see.

And now I have to hold them, hold them back in the throat Where when you swallow they don't go down, Hold them, all these years remaining, looking At what you made me see: This big, spinning world, this big, Beautiful, goddamn beautiful world.