Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Would You Believe It?

I am no longer sixteen. Impossible, really.
That I will not again crack
sunflower seeds on the salt–bitten boardwalk
as a pink gossamer slowly alights over the dripping void
of the early morning, carrying in
its belly the muted glory of another day on Earth—
a bone that keeps washing ashore,
a child that insists on being born.

I won’t talk through the night again
with junkies dozing to the clinking cowbell of withdrawal,
a pockmarked moonface hanging over us,
as if it were peeking inside a baby carriage,
easing our loneliness; wherever I might go now,
you won’t send police cruisers after me
or watch with me seagulls throw up bits of a crab,
a shard of a dream that cuts the flesh when it releases you,
as you turn red in the face with concern over my future.

In the winter–agony of Coney Island,
where an old rabbi still blows his horn in a sad refrain—
and blue–grays settle over the blinking arcades
and wharves like a case of diphtheria—
I did not learn anything at all.
You were right, all my friends were idiots.

I will not pull back again a string over the rim of your guitar
and pick seaweed out of my hair, as if it were a lesson in cartography:
this is where my soul first flew to me,
this—where my knees turned in a little, the hands that came
to open them, kiss them. That I won’t be kissed again for the first time
just about anywhere on my body.

Tomorrow morning in line at the welfare office,
you will exchange compliments with the secretary,
boredom silvering her eyes like a moonbeam from a Bulgakov novel,
forced to look at childhood photographs
of someone she does not love. And who really wants all this misery?
Even a poet eventually tires of it. The seagulls
will not return the last piece of your dream;
they will cry for you when you no longer need them to.

Maybe it only appears this way because God lives longer than we do
in the fat velvet ropes that droop
in between immigrant mothers waiting on a ration of eggs and milk,
in the prayers we used to scatter
together at the marina like a crust of moldy bread.
We understand little of things’ abrupt end,
and even less, when they stubbornly continue,
and yet, it just so happens that whenever I stand in the enduring glow
of the Atlantic Ocean, I still believe that your life was the only thing that mattered.  

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