We used to clamber down the river on hands and knees—there weren’t any bugs then—
and sure, we used to dismember slugs and release their inner sleaze, and there weren’t any bugs
Once we stumbled down the slope of your rain-soaked, wooded acres to swim in your pond.
There were bats, and there was thunder, and our flashlight shot up the trees, but there weren’t
any bugs then.
Once we wobbled through Boston’s March cold without coats and shouted our early morning
and I bestowed upon you, dense as you are, half-joking cruelties, but at least there weren’t any
Once I found an earthworm and called him friend. I propped him on my slide
and left him, a tiny emperor in the sun. He baked, crisp nobility, and there weren’t any bugs
Our plans fell apart when we reached your pond. We watched the bats in silence,
waiting for just one of us to feel unashamed of our triple nudities; after all, there weren’t any
And after our trip through the cold, I hid in your room while you conversed with drunks,
and for a time, you know, I hated parties, but at least there weren’t any bugs then.
I don’t remember what I did with that tiny king, a question mark in his last moments,
but I suspect I swept him away without anything funerary, and, hey, there weren’t any bugs then.
Even now we crawl down the river on hands and knees through the mosquitoes that assault us,
and ah, but Riley, I suspect they are vengeful for my multitude of tiny brutalities although you
and I know there weren’t any bugs then.
This poem takes inspiration from Elizabeth Bishop’s “In The Waiting Room” a copy of which can be read here.
I did not sit in a dentist’s office,
struck by the potent arbitrary presence of humanity,
but rather I laid in bed,
cozy in a Strawberry Fields room.
Seven years old, I stared into my white ceiling,
contemplating the darkness of death,
of not existing at all.
She holds a thin string of glass between her fingers, sets the safety glasses on her nose, and freezes. The stunned faces around her mirror her own vacated expression as blood rolls into her eye. She blinks. She pulls the glass out of her eyebrow, pulls it straight until she can see the pointed end of it, sets it down, and takes off the safety glasses. She walks into the bathroom and begins to wash the blood away, but the near miss continues to drip. The teacher corrects her when he comes. He helps her stop the bleeding, and she watches his blue eyes as he stretches a bandage over her tiny wound.
There’s a tentacle monster on my ceiling.
He’s a knitted lime ball with wiggling appendages
and one large brown eye, half-lidded.
I could call him Weary,
christening him after his attitude.
He looks into my cluttered room,
the disheveled piles categorically sorted,
the bed unmade and covered in crumbs,
and passes judgment in silence.
If I turn him around
his bored gaze will roll down Tremont St.
where the light from the Loews Theatre
casts red undulations over my ceiling.
Did you know they turn the sign off
at 2:14 in the morning?
I don’t know when they turn it on.
Cool headlights file down Tremont
between hollow orange streetlights,
and, if it’s a Friday, cars will fill the three lanes,
people will fill the sidewalk,
and I will lie awake and listen to them shout.
He sits on his desk like a yogi and stares out the window, watching the traffic roll down Tremont Street. Occasionally it squawks, but he doesn’t seem to notice; only the people in the crosswalk, on the Common, on the sidewalks capture his attention. Hunched in his hoodie, he swivels slightly to follow the progress of a woman in a yellow raincoat. Now he leans toward the far edge of his window to observe a man crossing the intersection diagonally. Another catches his eye, and Scott says, “Either that’s Michael or a lady,” and I, lying in his bed with a literary tome in my lap, laugh at our own joke.
I am him two hours from now, when he stops being Scott and becomes myself just to get his homework done, and the girl standing in the closet, looking at herself in the mirror and wondering if her pants are flattering or not is him the next morning. As for the boy on the Common who runs from his parents and through the pigeons, causing them to shatter, fragmentary, into the air, that is him on a date next Saturday.
For now, though, he is searching the crowds for hope, and, not finding it there, he is beginning to search the cars too. He knows he won’t find what he’s looking for, but he searches anyway because he would like to hope. This is in spite of the person he will be in four hours who, when the red glare of Loews Theatres snaps off and he is left alone with his thoughts, will snarl and rage against him for having thought of hope at all.
Being Scott doesn’t bother him as much as being someone else might, and as he presses his face against the window thinking, “Is that—No, he doesn’t have the right hat,” he finds a strange contentment in the melancholy blank that comes from watching innumerable strangers parade through their seemingly fulfilled lives while he sits dumb on his desk, studying a series of worlds he doesn’t know how to be a part of. Something within him shifts slightly and although the man entering the subway station at one corner of the intersection isn’t the hope he’s seeking, he finds a smile building within himself so that, when two hours have passed, he does not become me. Instead he is Rose who stands on what is now her desk and places her hands on the window, kissing the skyline. She reaches down to the amassed detritus of daily life and removes a lipstick suitable only to burlesque musicals. She smears it across her lips, flashes her teeth to no one in particular, and draws on the window. She admires her handiwork for a moment before reaching under the desk for a paper towel to wipe the make-up from her face, beginning her transmutation into someone else.
By the time she has stepped off the desk, she has become me, prepared to engage the studious routine of literary analysis. I prop myself in what is now my bed and hold the biblically fragile pages of the text between my fingers, thoughts of hope lost amidst thoughts of poesy.
Under a dock,
a turtle. No bigger than a pet
in an aquarium tank.
I swim up behind it,
charmed by its leisurely paddle,
admiring the swing of its tail,
the sturdy thrust of the tiny limbs,
and the present swivel of its critical head as
ponderously it turns to face me,
opening its scissor maw
and driving me out of its lake.