Full poem, The Astronaut, published by UWA in The Poets of New England, an anthology avalibile online and in select stores.
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My new partner doesn’t read my poetry.
Says, they want to respect my privacy
it’s strange to say, that makes me happy, that
my diary is publicly available to read, online
for voyers a full catalog of love letters,
but this kid, they’re not nosey
knows me already so well
that when I confessed to always staying
awake a little longer just to be sure
they’re comfortable enough to start snoring
ever since that one night they confessed
they don’t normally like sharing a bed,
says, they know I’m a huge sap.
So then I tells them,
a few nights ago I woke up
with their snoring arm around me
and I laid there a moment writing poetry
behind the smile I was hiding in the pillow
about the weight of the arm and how warm
and safe I felt for the first time in so long,
and all of those words
sat waiting for the right moment
and maybe it wasn’t the right moment
when I said it
with all the beer and being out
so far past bed time, but kid
I’ve got a lot of feelings.
Forgive me now
for writing a hundred versions
of the same poem you’ll never read
that I will read on raised platforms
to groups of strangers staring at me
who know nothing
of the sweetness in your voice
when you says all these soft affirmations
after making your bed in the morning
or picking up coffee
I want them to know.
I don’t even make my own bed at home,
but it’s my favorite part after spending the night
ever since that first morning this kid
got out of the shower before I was done
tucking in the edges they says, awe,
and I blushed.
My face still feels warm.
I’m extra cautious not to imagine us
too soon, like this extra crispy crust
ricotta pizza done just right,
a savory center and thick, crunchy edges
made for long chew,
contemplative sips of craft brew
I hated complex drinks last summer
but here I sit, sucking down another.
My friend in the coffee shop tells me
I am a sucker for good art
so forgive me universe for drawing out
the image, the flirtatious text messages
turned sappy repetitions
in every scratched out line of poem
could jinx it.
The future plans we’ve casually suggested,
the savory smile I can’t fight back
long sips of laughs in bed, time zone distanced
late late night rolling with imagination.
Call me tootsie
call me whenever
you could chew to the center any time
and I’d stop counting how many
slices of ricotta are left,
I’d bus the tray myself
if I wasn’t afraid to scare off
the sweet maybe of knowing
the center of your heart.
When I was a child, Christmas of ’96,
Santa brought me a pink Barbie camper van.
My cousin Jonathan sat in it, breaking apart the sides
before I even had a chance to put the batteries in.
My dad jokes, one day in thirty-some-odd years
my cousin and I will be in an argument
and I’ll throw the van in his face,
the literal toy so heavy it could be a weapon,
to this day it’s in storage, he jokes, waiting to be avenged.
Childhood injustices are hard to make peace with
knowing they will always be in your foundation,
little hand prints laid into fresh cement,
and to this day I find the quiet destruction
that chips at this unparalleled in evoking frustration,
muddling over the old notion of knowing better.
My cousin was a toddler,
too cataclysmic in his breathing alone
to know he could break something
my parents saved for weeks to afford and could not replace; a child
that young cannot grasp intention or impact, they act on instinct.
To this day, that pink van has a large bend
in the plastic; it’s in my parent’s attic.
Whenever a partner or friend does something destructive,
quiet, knowing the consequences will be irreparable
and they do it anyway, I look at my hands and see plastic.
My eyes gloss and my hair falls limp
a doll. To them, at least.
It was always advertised these parts are limited
edition, a human often damaged in the same way
can’t sustain replacing, what, was. I wish
I could look at them as a child unaware
of their strength and the outcome of conscious choice,
it took months to afford my trust, and still,
I was considered then discarded like wrapping paper
in the way of something wanted more.
I don’t know what toys are in their parents’ attics’ if any,
I keep the van in mine because it taught me appreciation,
how to care for something.
A collectors item, the van would be worth
over six hundred dollars undamaged, but as is,
I have a concrete reference I can pull out of the insulation
to see the difference in a curious mistake
and a calculated risk taken
at my expense.
The Columbia River Gorge burned down just before I moved next door.
It’s up in smoke again.
In the months between falling in love and abandoning my old home
the lush land flashed never to be the same, like traumatic discoloration
from short fused fireworks; I came for the wild flowers
but alls left to hold were ash trails running black under rain water,
and on the eve of my leaving it behind I caught wind of more
smoke moving in, my heart heavy for the uncontrolled
changing landscape, then I remembered New Hampshire.
I remembered the back roads of Massachusetts
and the smell of salt mixed with Old Orchard pine.
The woods were already mine but I ran away
for the Pacific North West like I’d never seen the color green.
I’ve wrote home the songs of the birds, I’ve spoke
of how grateful I’ve felt for every cloud, with each stretch of my smile
pulling the words a little more thin. A little more soaked in the storm
that made me forget how nice the rising sun is. Forget how necessary
a clear view of stars is, my eyes have strained in light pollution so long
I’ve started drawing the constellations in my fading freckles so not to forget them.
I’ve thought about sneaking onto a freight train for the story
before fading out over the fog of the river, like a presence cast off
by a preacher of God because it was never meant to be there so long,
that’s not to say the fire charred my state of thought from the start,
I’m just now finding a build up is blocking the gully between want
and need. It’s from the fireworks, the sulfur, and there’s this thing
so crazy in nature where the heat of a forest fire can sit in the earth
heavy and deep below layers of ice and frost all winter
then creep back up unexpected and self immolate on a dry day,
what I’ve been avoiding is going to watch the smolder
because, it’s not quite New Hampshire. The back roads of Massachusetts
and the smell of salt mixed with Old Orchard pine are pieces of me
this polluted river outside my door cannot replace no matter how beautifuly
bright the burn or subtle the months of rain. I spent time
in the fire damage, hiking a closed trail, pleading ignorance,
and mourned the nugget of a dream I’d built my life on
having flashed by so brilliant, so much faster than I’d envisioned,
it’s hard to know where to go next with the trail markers all singed.
I let all the twigs get stuck in my toes, decided
not to give up on the flowers growing back. Though I know,
there are fields of wild waiting for me back home.
A quarter past and I’m packing up again, yet again.
On the third week I changed your contact name in my phone back to normal,
it’s weird that’s how we do things now.
I figured if it’s the only way I’m going to see you,
it shouldn’t be reminiscent of old feelings,
as if this disdain were thoughtless
or a text could make me forget
the silent stares over an hour over room tempature coffee
I just kept sipping to get rid of
it’s unfortunate. My phone’s predictive text
keeps saying forgiveness with Capitol
F but you told a mutual friend all this
doesn’t matter since Nic’s moving anyways,
after I’d asked you not tell anyone yet,
so I’m rolling around at midnight
trying to decide what order the alphabet should be in
before the end of August,
if I want to try to rearrange things again
or just accept it, I was expecting
some distance yes, everybody has disagreements,
but the radio silence after the hospital and 21st
seemed like an intentionally loud message
I don’t want to interpret.
I thought I understood this book so well
only to find now it’s written in another language
under a pen name I don’t recognize.
I met up with the girl that shares my name,
and saw in her a younger version of me
that I can’t help but wonder was the reason
you were so afraid we’d be friends,
as if having more in common with her
would make your friendship less attractive
and that’s why you pit knowing you first
up against whatever it is that you never said,
and just kept asking if I wanted
to say anything else.
I just wanted to sing Smash Mouth in that awkwardness
and be silly the way we always would get
over everything from out of town adventures
to stolen bar decorations, but, I see
on social media all your latest posts,
doing well with the band and all the folks we both know, I know
you’ve talked to them about this and I imagine
the faces I see most said what you wanted me to,
and I noticed you stopped checking mine so
I turned the notifications off, too,
virtual darkness akin to the silence
I’m getting used to. Mixed letters
still suspended above my bed by 1 a.m.
like my phone refuses rest with
its quick conclusions knowing at least
you’re right about one thing,
I’m leaving soon
The ‘ol apartment is almost empty now, everything
larger than my body could handle alone, given away
and I worry if I’m making these moves too soon
much like, all the poetry I’ve been sharing
about everyone but the one moving
into my mind the rent just right
the sale closed prorated, I’ve been draining pens
over this and everyone else, to get ’em out of the way,
to open it all up and detach for the welcome-back
I’ve been daydreaming about, hoping to find there
on the other side of all these boxes
I’ve been sending off; somewhere
between what I’m keeping and what I’m leaving
behind, a life envisioned
decorated in laughter,
an open floor plan where I can sprawl
out, and fill in with all the words
I’ve been tucking into an envelope,
waiting to catch the postman
so I can hand deliver the offer
to come on over anytime,
I’d like to stick around
at least for a bit, long enough
to get to know how you find zen
or like the laundry to hang,
preferences in lighting and knickknacks,
the significant to meaningless things;
I know to rearrange a living space
can completely change your mind-
-set and in all this bubble wrap my hands
have found themselves in, I’m sealing up
the last of the art worth looking at,
I’m on the phone with the airline asking
if this ticket comes with any assurance
that sight-unseen for all these weeks
things will fall into place.
All that’s left to pack are my pens
my bed and my dreams.