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September 29, 2015

until the last note leaves the room
for K.

How easy to envy the lovers their liquid sway and fascination,
the way a crowd disappears behind them and time suspends itself
and even light seem to bow humbly in their direction.
How faultless the dance looks from here, your own legs
cagey and uncertain, though you remember, still, 
the body's fierce loyalty to another, how a heart can stretch past all odds.
Something has collapsed in you - hope, you'd call it. That's what it feels like 
when the music swells and no one's reaching for your hand. So you sink,
deflated, to the shadows of your seat and say to yourself, This is what loneliness is,
until the last note leaves the room and you reach for your own.


September 22, 2015

ordering off the menu

I like the way Miller did it, the boy who wore a police uniform to a music festival
in the middle of the Berkshires, who ignored the fashion status quo of concert t-shirts
and cargo shorts and opted, instead, for a set of play handcuffs at his belt, a miniature baton,
a trio of patches emblazoned on a dark blue shirt buttoned all the way to the top.
After we met, he pulled a series of violation notices from his pockets, said this one
was for parking in a tow zone at the airport, and this one was for peeing in someone's doorway
when you were drunk. Nearby, a famous band was about to take the stage. A waft of concert-goers
holding plastic cups of beer made a beeline for the field. We stood, Miller and I, at the outskirts,
and I thought of all the quiet and not-so-quiet courage it takes to sit at the counter
that is your life and ask for what you want, no matter how rich or how sweet.


September 15, 2015

how to be happy in tiny slices 

Walk the streets of the town you moved to but don't quite fit in, flinching
at the cigarette packs that scatter the gutters, the abandoned green straws
from Starbucks, the one-shot liquor bottles and caved-in Capri Suns, 
the caps flicked out carelessly from car windows, torn remains of shopping lists,
the tops of old paint cans and bottom ends of old bread, receipts from the gas station
and the pharmacy and the ATMs of all seven banks that line the main avenue.
Bend, in your overwhelm and alienation, to a single square foot below you,
the one whose pile of castoffs offends you most. Reach a hand toward the source
of your greatest displeasure, then close a fist around it. There is a place to empty
what you don't need to hold onto anymore. Go there now. 


September 8, 2015

the instruction manual

You should have seen us, sweaty in the kitchen after the mosquitos drove us in,
Labor Day evening on the cusp of the first full week of school. Maybe
it was the wrong time to finish the assembly of a basketball hoop gifted
so many months before, a task we must have been avoiding for this reason -
the failure of the literature tucked into the large cardboard box. How we squinted
at the tiny renderings on each page, pinching bolts in our fingers in the vague hope
that we would know, by feel, which ones fit. And how easy it was, instead, to open
the old wounds of everything else we'd struggled to put together, those frantic triages
that hadn't stopped the bleeding. Now, we are sprawled on alcove tiles, verging on a 
disaster. And yet, it is this same failure fueling us now, our skin still bruised, still tender.


September 1, 2015

paddling the Atlantic

The waves coming to shore are toppling the young swimmers,
only their arms visible above the froth. Beyond them, the water
smooths out, or so it appears, so she climbs on a borrowed board,
pulling an oar under until she can't hear the kids anymore. But when she finally
stands, the current underneath is a persistent, turbulent ripple. From a distance,
she looks buoyant, almost swan-like, as if it were second nature to move like this.
It's not, of course, though the chop and sway begin, by degrees, to feel strangely familiar,
and she stops looking toward the beach to steady her stance. Instead, she watches the shapes
the wind is making beside her, liquid curves lapping toward her legs, which are not buckling
as she'd thought, but rather arched, like long necks, toward the heavens.