Michael Torres

Yet Another Life
October 24, 2022 Torres Michael

Yet Another Life


And then one day I was no longer up
the block and on my way, over the phone,
saying: Give me 10 minutes. My truck no
longer in the driveway I once spotted
with blood, trying to catch a football.
How my arm trembled plucking pebbles.
The neighbors’ children grew up after
I left. Of course they did. I don’t know
what I expected. Everyone went to school.
Most graduated. Everyone went to work.
Everyone. All those cars passed without
me there on evenings almost identical
to those I’d spent outside, every summer
—me and the homies watching traffic
—as kids. How we used to lean against
the wall, taking turns claiming each car
to see who got the bucket, who got
the Beamer. My homies, who I remember
as boys calling plays, throwing spirals,
grew up as well. Why not? And they had
children who are no longer children. And because
I was no longer there to greet them at the door,
they stopped pulling into my driveway,
into my parents’ driveway. But for a while
they’d wave to my father when they saw him.
And me?—I stared at a map of this country,
and found my way through part of it, stopping
at a Subway for lunch so deep in between
miles and miles of flatland, I found it difficult
to imagine anyone actually living there.
I was so new to elsewhere. I wanted
to ask the teenager at the register what
he thought of the place where he grew up.
Did he want to leave, too? And what about
his friends? What did they grow up believing in?
I asked for a large soda. And then, my mother’s
voice came through the phone. I told her I was
good. And she said the same. And saying this
enough times we begun to believe it. Everyone says
hello, she said. I nodded at the phone. Everyone
hung up and went to bed. They woke and went
to work. So much time passed. More children,
marriages. Boat cruises. I woke up managing
another life, which was mine. And then I woke
to manage yet another life, which was my daughter’s.
There were car seats and dishes. Lists of what
was needed, and what could wait another week.
Cars kept passing by. Someone forgot
to wave to my father. It’s alright. I get it.
I left. And inside this story, my father becomes
less, but that’s not how my mother phrased it,
was it? She would talk about the heatwave
and how my father still wanted to trim the trees.
And near day’s end, my father would stand there
in the long shade, looking up through the branches
until he forgot he was too old to climb. Then
he’d ascend as when he was younger—when
I was a boy setting my weight on the bottom rung.
Now, my mother spends afternoons sighing
from a window. So many leaves fall around
my father. Nothing answers him. My mother
shouts from the porch—as she did then—
with a glass of water in her hand, saying
something about the dark, and why isn’t he
wearing a hat. She can’t turn away now.
My father steps down, finally, into the evening,
slicing early stars with his silhouette. Finally,
one of them, my mother or my father, I don’t
know who, closes the gate and walks down
the driveway back toward the door. And whoever
crosses the street in front of their house has
no idea who lives there. Not anymore. One
of them stands still in the yard as they had
not done in many years, and watches the street.
And something that was once missing loses
its color. The light changes. A car passes.

Michael Torres was born and brought up in Pomona, California where he spent his adolescence as a graffiti artist. His debut collection of poems, An Incomplete List of Names (Beacon Press, 2020) was selected by Raquel Salas Rivera for the National Poetry Series and named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020. His honors include awards and support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, CantoMundo, VONA Voices, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Jerome Foundation, the Camargo Foundation, and the Loft Literary Center. Currently he’s an Assistant Professor in the MFA program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a teaching artist with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. Visit him at: michaeltorreswriter.com