Everyone knows that the trees will go one day and nothing will take their place. Everyone has wakened, alone, in a room of fresh light and risen to meet the morning as we did. How long have we waited quietly by the side of the road for someone to slow and ask why. The light is going, first from between the long rows of dark firs and then from our eyes, and when it is gone we will be gone. No one will be left to say, ‘He took the stick and marked off the place where the door would be,’ or ‘she held the child in both hands and sang the same few tunes over and over.’ Before dinner we stood in line to wash the grease from our faces and scrub our hands with a hard brush, and the pan of water thickened and grayed, a white scum frothed on top, and the last one flung it in the yard. Boiled potatoes, buttered and salted, onions, thick slices of bread, cold milk almost blue under the fading light, the smell of coffee from the kitchen. I felt my eyes slowly closing. You smoked in silence. What life were we expecting? Ships sailed from distant harbors without us, the telephone rang and no one answered, someone came home alone and stood for hours in the dark hallway. A woman bowed to a candle and spoke as though it could hear, as though it could answer. My aunt went to the back window and called her small son, gone now 27 years into the closed wards of the state, called his name again and again. What could I do? Answer for him who’d forgotten his name? Take my father’s shoes and go into the streets? Yes, the sun has risen again. I can see the windows change and hear a dog barking. The wind buckles the slender top of the alder, the conversation of night birds hushes, and I can hear my heart regular and strong. I will live to see the day end as I lived to see the earth turn molten and white, then to metal, then to whatever shape we stamped into it as we laughed the long night hours away or sang how the eagle flies on Friday. When Friday came, the early hours perfect and cold, we cursed our only lives and passed the bottle back and forth. Some died. I turned and he was gone, my friend with the great laugh who walked cautiously and ate with his head down, like a bear, his coarse hair almost touching the plate. The tall one with arms no thicker than a girl’s, who cursed his swollen face as though he could have another. The one whose voice lilted softly when he raised a finger and spoke. I sat beside him, trying to describe the sea as I had seen it, but it was lost, distant and unseen, perhaps no longer there under a low sky. I tried to tell him how the waves darkened and left only the sound of their breaking, and after a silence we learned to bear, it all came back. He turned away to the wall and slept, and I went out into the city. It was I who’d held his wife and felt the small bones of her back rising and falling as she did not cry. Later I would see my son from a distance and not call out. I would waken that night beside a sleeping woman and count each breath. Soon it was summer, afternoon, the city hid indoors in the great heat, the hot wind shriveled our faces. I said, ‘They’re gone.’ The light turned from red to green, and we went on. ‘If they’re not here.’ you said, ‘where are they?’ We both looked into the sky as though it were our only home. We drove on. Nothing moved, nothing stirred in the oven of this valley. What was there left to say? The sky was on fire, the air streamed into the open windows. We broke free beyond the car lots, the painted windows, the all-night bars, the places where the children gathered, and we just went on and on, as far as we could into a day that never ended.