Poetry Month – April 17, 2024 – On the Altar

HALLIE

Every time she came for a play date
she wanted to do the exact same thing
as the last time.
Paint rocks.
Over and over.
I didn’t understand.
Don’t you want to…?
I’d ask.
She’d look at me with her firm brown eyes
Shake her head and go outside to search
For another rock and wait for me to bring
The water in the white plastic cup always
A stack of clear to go containers always
Four bottles of blue, yellow, red, white paint
and her favorite thick brush
Alwaysalwaysalways
Until she got older
And stopped coming over.
That’s how it is
Kids move on and
Their painted rocks stay behind.
I’d hear things about her
A diagnosis
A treatment center
A troubled life
A hard edge
So hard
She left the world
By her own hand.
The one that painted rocks
In my back yard.

I didn’t remember this rock was on my altar. And then I did remember. All of it.