Rift

Rift: early 14c., “a split, act of splitting,” from a Scandinavian source (compare Danish and Norwegian rift “a cleft,” Old Icelandic ript (pronounced “rift”) “breach;” related to Old Norse ripa “to break a contract”… Figurative use from 1620s. Geological sense from 1921. As a verb, c. 1300.

From speaking with her mother on the phone beforehand, I knew
she had the 20 dollar bill that she’d been given—

but when she was delivered into my care that afternoon,
saw her fold it tightly, furtively, into her small fist,

pretend she didn’t have anything on her when she alighted
from the car. They must have been only 8 or 9 then, she

and my daughter. So I made no comment, only reassured
my friend before she drove away: an hour or so at tennis,

snacks afterward— a sandwich or an ice cream float,
each not more than five dollars. Of course it wasn’t any

trouble: never was, not then, nor any of the other times
we watched both girls at home, fed and tucked them in

on sleepover nights, took them to restaurants, bought
cold drinks at the corner store. It never was an issue

that they were much more well-to-do: the gifts
we exchanged on holidays and birthdays, never about

what they cost but what they meant, what they
were worth, this way. But now with both girls

at that awkward age when friendships take different
turns, I’m surprised how much I hurt for days

after my child tells me she’s heard from some
school grapevine source that she’s been unfriended,

cut off; what’s more, that we never did enough
for my child’s friend whereas her family had done

so much for us. Though I know better— just as my child
is coming to understand— and can make the mind

do the work of pulling the heart through
one more difficult rift on the landscape, still

a sorrow lingers; and like a tattered shadow,
its miserly sister doubt. I think of Damon

and Pythias, how the king was set to put to death
the one that valiantly offered himself as guarantee

for his friend; how the latter arrived just in the nick
of time. How that kind of faith is what we long for.

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