i’m acutely aware of
the presence of a blue ballpoint pen
on the street in front of the house next door.
it’s been there since we moved in.
each time i see it, the question:
should i pick it up?
but then i remember:
it’s the same pen that’s been
left out in the soggy grey tuesdays,
the muggy sundays,
the breezy, humming friday nights and that
it’s my own mind
that remains hopeful, curious, confused
with a start,
that i already know the answer.
i watched as a satellite
carved a lazy path across
the memory of all other nights
spent staring at the stars.
i turned back to find your face lit up by
a moon rising electric above the rooftops,
hanging bright enough
to illuminate our fears,
as big as the sky,
as small as the space between us.
there is a distinct possibility
that i will end up heartbroken at the end of all of this
but it’s too late.
i am already navy blue sad at the thought that we almost never met.
this message that
will never reach you,
as futile as our romance itself–
i was right about that song
about the day the towers fell
miss do you think i should cut my hair
for my interview at the courthouse? you
asked me today.
do i think you should cut your hair?
the hair that took you a year to grow,
the hair that marks you
the kind of person
who would have been
my kind of person–
the spray-painting cracked parking lots at dusk and
swinging on the playground in the dark kind of person–
if we’d gone to school together?
but what i think
and what the world thinks
aren’t the same, are
growing more and more heartbreaking
in their difference.
i tried again–
i needed more poetry.
i’m not sorry i haven’t answered you as i’m not certain
you would believe me if i told you
there was no poetry in that afternoon.
instead i found it
on a side street in jp,
alone in the dark in some part of the city
i’ve never seen before.
instead i found it
in the pouring rain,
the steep streets turned to rivers,
the raindrops shattering the orange of the streetlights to pieces.
as I peel off my wet clothes in the quiet of my room
at the shape of my life
it’s been three years without you.
the bookmark they gave out at your funeral
is still hanging up in my room.
i look at it every day.
what i dream of is an art of balance.
my dreams are off-kilter these days,
wonky the way life
ultimately always is.
wish you were still a part of it.
whose rightful place is here beside me–
who’s no, literally, that smart,
but like, people see the
name of the high school and just
throw out the application—
what is there to say?
what is there to do but smile until
you can leave the room and let the tears fall,
make some worksheets that feel,
if not pointless then
a styrofoam sword when
the world calls for steel–
and try to get enough sleep.
how do i teach “poems that kill?”
how do i arm my students for this world
when the color of my skin makes me
a strange vessel, means that
i am the rightful target?