Don’t try this at home.
Try this on a wet dark road
with an unpromising destination—
or just another useless errand
created by badly transcribed directions
for the good life
when all your calculations wash away
in the smear of steady rain softly
eroding the names of those you once called
best friend with all the sincerity and confidence
of a big-haired rock star on his first arena tour.
List the memories no one can
confirm, the alone-doors with the one key
spiked in your palm, burning off the acid
of nostalgia, tattooing the soft skin with loss
when all you want is to get it in the door
and turn and enter and witness again:
weeds behind the garage swaying tall
against the mesh fence like the long hair
of a girl you think you love who will die
with her braces on. The neighbor’s dog,
swollen with anonymous puppies,
her eyes softening as you pet her
stretched up against the fence.
The puppies disappear. The dog
disappears. You burn trash in a rusty barrel
and ash rises into the gray air
of Detroit spring, the last patch of snow
in the angle of shade, and the sun dial
of your young life turns out to be a chalk drawing
by the deaf-mute down the block
who kicked your ass once—why? why?
Memories recede like the line of snow.
A rubber ball bounces against a wall
and returns, bounces, returns. A wounded
sparrow hops crooked near the curb,
and you should find a way to put it out
of its misery but but but—the ball
bounces, returns, the comfort of the wall
and its resistance, the sky spiraling
into dusk, then night, and you’re aiming
for the one brick, the perfect strike,
cheating for yourself, you alone
against brick, time, and a dying sparrow
waiting for a cat, watching you with a hard eye,
its silent intrusion into the rest of your life.
Punished, you bent over the furnace vent
in the floating dust of the silent house.
The others all at the fall festival
and its traveling carnival of greasy rides
and sincere flirting. You, caught in a lie,
a twisted net of deceit your clumsy fingers
could not unravel, and all you have
is the furnace clicking on, and, hunched over,
you hog the heat, dismissing all other forms of prayer.
What did you lie about? Why did he
hit you? Who rode the tilt-a-whirl
with that girl? Hot breath whispered
against your face, into your hollow chest,
and you closed your eyes and listened.
Are you still with me, or are you nudging
whoever’s sitting next to you, tilting your head
toward the exit, slipping away to that “appointment”
you forgot about?
The authority of the speaker has left
the building. I admit the deceit
of instructions leading nowhere
but to my alone-door where I will greet you
like the invisible friend you imagined
for two weeks during a bad stretch.
I have been practicing my coffee-stained
smile and my knee-worn patience
in front of the vacated jury of my peers
just for you. I have dreamt the world’s
most comfortable chairs for us to sit in.
Listen, you will say. Remember? I’ll say.