“I’m a sweetheart. I’m a mother.”
She is standing in the middle
of a semi-packed subway car at 9 o’clock at night.
We’re about to be booted off to board
shuttles to our final destinations for
the evening: Wellington, Malden, Oak Grove.
She, on the other hand, needs exactly seven
dollars and seventy-five cents
to catch the commuter rail to South Attleboro.
On past rides, it’s been Worcester she’s needed
the fare for. Or she still has to get to
South Attleboro, only she needs 8 dollars.
“I’m a sweetheart. I’m a mother.”
I want to tell her you can be both those things
and still you wind up on the subway
telling slight variations on the same story
to a car full of people who’ve heard it before.
To surf might be
The nearest thing
To time travel
Calves stretched taut
Eyes trained to shore
Toes dig for traction
Waves roar laughter
Foam and spray
On my heels
I push the board
Into the ocean
A viscous layer of water holds
Threatens to sink
The ocean humors me
For my actions
Surfing. The deep water knows
What we do
It alone allows
The shallows where I float
And I feel
The immense wave
A thousand armies strong
Lifted I soar
On my feet
My toes curl
Grip the wax edge
Of the long board
And I’m surfing
As every wave
On the ocean’s mind
This one’s hard for me, opens up feelings
of inadequacy over what seems
to be an unnatural chemical
dependency on a gas station purchase.
When did I get like this? At what age did
my once spry child lips decide they need this
to survive? How specifically did this
addiction begin? It feels like I’ve been
living with the weight of this small plastic
container all my life. If my lips get
too dry, I panic, tend to simulate
insanity, monomanic. I
complain and whine until I feel that bliss.
I’m an addict, but oh so soft to kiss.
I scolded you for not looking before you leapt. At least I leapt, you said. You just kept staring into the hole, looking at things that would not change. The hole caved in, I said. The hole sunk. Down with the ship, you replied. The best always do.
I stopped trusting mirrors because I knew they were not the places in which I’d find myself once I’d been lost. You don’t trust anything, you said. You have to start. I’ve lost my gut, I said. My gut had been you. You were eaten alive, you replied. From the inside out.
I did not stop having dreams, because one doesn’t have the power to control. Learn to blame, you said. Start to absorb it, too. You don’t know this view, I said. I don’t need to, you replied. I always just start walking.
I moved to move, because that’s what I thought one should do. You didn’t say anything. I waved my hands; first, like a flag, then, like someone drowning at sea. Down with the ship, you finally replied. The best always do.
He never reached out much, now that the party invites stopped. Sometimes he’d show up at a big event, a wedding more likely than a funeral. The laughs came out, but more frantically than before. Most of us didn’t know where he had ended up — was he still in the Rockies? Or had he returned back east? Didn’t he say something once about Alaska?
We later discussed how we all got excited for a second when we saw an email from him that morning. The address seemed old, but who had heard from him otherwise? And A 4:30 am time stamp made sense — same old crazy Green. In retrospect, it was hard to tell which was sadder: that most of us couldn’t tell right away that the lonely link to a German pill manufacturer was an obvious incident of minor hacking, or that some kept the email in our inboxes anyway, just to pretend.
Man created holidays in his own image—
Lazy afternoons with sunbeams dripping in through dusty windows
Like wax dripping from eight or nine candles
(depending on which part of the world you’re from)
Are perfect allegories for the human condition
(if you want to call it that)
When all of us need a break from the work-a-day world
That binds and chains us
And creates tension in our jaws while we sleep