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Posts Tagged ‘people’

After School

“After school”

used to mean

running up the hill

to melodic chimes—

sharing a slushy,

matching blue tongues.

 

My mom always gave me

five more minutes

in the “ducky playground.”

There was a broken duck seat

attached to the ground

with a spring.

I sat on it,

rocking it back and

forth, side to side,

trying to break it

more.

 

My best friend told me secrets

before we slid down

the biggest slide,

and we always liked

the same boys. I hated that

but loved her,

and we wrote bad songs

and stayed up late watching

sad movies.

 

Now “after school” means

401k plans, an unpaid lunch hour,

and early dentist appointments.

Resumes catered to jobs catered

to people catered to me, but

never catered to you.

If you aren’t full time,

you are wasting time,

and there is no time

for you and me

to talk about what we want.

Never say

what a company can do for you.

What can you do for them?

What can you do for me?

 

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The bank lady—I think her name was Betsy,

asked for my number,

as we sat in expensive blue chairs,

sinking in.

“What is the number

to reach you at work?”

 

Paperwork stuck together,

Dry hands,

Repeat the question,

Please.

“What is your work number?”

The rearranged words

felt heavier.

 

“Oh, I— I don’t have one.”

 

I wished it was

all laid out for her,

facts on her computer screen

in a doctor’s office.

“I was laid off.

The company downsized.”

The explanation was

necessary

to set up a bank account,

even though

it really wasn’t.

 

She gave me a sad smile,

as if she knew about

the empty space

I felt in my identity.

 

“If this was an interview,”

she said as I signed where

the x’s were,

“I would hire you.”

 

 

 

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Free Hands

When I hear “the lighthouse was blown up,”
I think of enlarging a photograph—
Blow it up on the screen.
Not explosions,
Technology.

When there was a bomb threat
at my high school,
we had to bring clear plastic bags
to school
instead of backpacks.
Stand in line at the door—
We thought about the
inconvenience
of the plastic bag’s zipper.
Always breaking on the spirals
of notebooks.

And we had no free hands.

Every year my friends and I stand
at the island around
the lagoon in Boston
on the 4th.
If it wasn’t for the marathon bombing,
there would have been a
4th of July bombing.

Fireworks sound like guns, explosions,
Danger—
They can set off car alarms
from the vibration of the sound.
But our necks are stiff from fascination.
Colors crackle
on the sky (we imagine.)
It’s the illusion and the shapes
we can’t get enough of.

We fold up our chairs,
and smell the sulfur.
We are safe.

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I saw her dad’s wake in her eyes—
She was holding his cold hand,
wanting to say more.
I am not sure which part of her
knew she was at school,
sitting next to me on the bench.
But she looked at me,
hand tucking her hair
in a safe place behind
her fully pierced ear.
The room cleared
and my mind felt like
her eyes—sheet of glass.
I chose to say
the wrong thing.

I am so sorry for your loss.
It just poured out
like sweat.
My face burned like I just ran
to her, and
she quietly accepted
my mistake.

I held her manuscript,
feeling like it gained ten pounds
since I first sat down with her.
I have some suggestions,
But you don’t have to take them.
She nodded.

There’s some grammar mistakes . . .
There’s a title change . . .
There’s some needed line breaks . . .
And there are some endings
you could shorten.
Some endings
you could change.

She nodded,
And read through
the last poem.
One about her dad.
“I just want him to know,”
she said.
She wanted to say enough.
He knows,
I told her.
You don’t need the rest of
the ending for someone
to know—

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The snow looks like tiramisu,
but you see a dirty, late Spring.
Too many plows blocking us
in and too many cancelled dates
and rain checks for nights out.
We want to
forget about who we are.
It’s too much to be alone
with ourselves.
We have to stay in
and think about what it means
to stay in.

Close enough to
smell Dorito breath of your
brother,
cuddled up and angry.
We don’t want to be home,
but when we are cold and
numb
with shovel marks
on our hands,
all we want to be is
inside.

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Buried under this snow
is the day I will be leaving
and won’t push open
that heavy door
that those broken steps
lead up to.
I won’t walk
up that ramp,
leading to his office—
walls covered in paintings
like in a living room,
and a cleared off desk.
Typewriter next to him.
I sat in the same chair
every time.

The benches that I found
refuge in will no longer
be my benches,
but they will remember
my warmth,
and the sound of my typing—
those essays and stories
they heard for hours
in a form of Morse Code.

I wonder how long
it will take for my name
to just be a name
and no longer my face
or voice.
My poems might take on
new meanings.
Or I might take on
a new meaning.
But I am not sure that
I want to find one.

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My Stranger

You were an illusion to me,
but nothing had ever felt more real.
I saw your light, winter eyes when I closed mine,
but I couldn’t draw them.
I couldn’t find a person that echoed
you or a voice close
to the made up one
I talked about so often.
I thought of places
I could find you.
I kept thinking
you had to be real
for me to feel yanked
out of place.
The drain in me was pulled,
and I couldn’t escape myself.
I told myself
if you were real,
you would have stopped this feeling.
I’d stand in front of the mirror,
knowing I must be insane,
obsessed with this notion
that a soul lives in my head,
waiting for me to find you,
as I continued to create your life
and who you are and who you
could be.
I went on to be with real people,
tangible heartbreaks
and mistakes I had to work through.
Kisses I could feel on my lips
and hands I could feel on my skin.
But I thought of a stranger
that I knew I spent lifetimes with.
I thought of you
when the sky was sharp with sunsets
and when I drove by glassy lakes
at night.
I knew how you’d feel about
the air after it rained,
and the sound of cicadas when it got
just hot enough.
I knew how you felt about me
because I felt it when I was alone
and when I wasn’t alone
and when I convinced myself you were
my imagination.
But when I opened the screen door
that winter afternoon,
I knew it was you.
“You feel so familiar,” I said.
“Maybe we met before,” you suggested.
But you knew too.

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