elegy for august’s sunflowers
sand hasn’t filled between our toes
in years now, hot under the late summer
sun that coated every flower yellow. nearly
dead and dry, but yellow. it was like a fire,
our friendship that summer,
raging harder than you’ve ever seen.
Sharbel’s “gang’s all here” echoed affection
through the slurred screams and smiles
that gleamed blue off our teeth
under artificial arcade lights. tangible love
felt like a miracle after a year of hell,
and I miss you all, I really do, all dozen
of us that ran in the humid glow
that passed with us after the august
dust settled, cold stone bridges arched
under our backs in each backdrop
captured with Stephen’s stupid camera;
he didn’t always catch us smiling.
and shit happens. and shit sucks.
and people change, and I can’t forgive
some of you, but I love you
and I wonder do you all remember
when everyone cried on the fourth of july?
I’m not sure how Justin and I’s ugly,
matching pink sneakers survived the summer
when every time we followed Mike
through the woods we’d end up in the mud,
splashing through the creek at sundown
and yelling that we hate him and never
are going to come over for s’mores again,
after he’d insisted we wouldn’t get lost this time.
scrubbing them clean in Skyler’s laundry room
was useless – they’re spotless but
mock me from my toes up, laced
up shakingly only to see their match
again and realize their owner upgraded
to a checkered black and white pair a year ago.
fresh and fallen watermelon only signals Evan,
king of the Hy-Vee produce department,
and so does that broken kitchen floorboard.
I haven’t felt a cold murky rush
like that since diving headfirst
into Ben’s lake. I remember I was
the only girl that day, my pink bikini straps
feeling thinner than usual and the sunburn
never feeling worth it, but now I would let
my skin peel, and peel, and peel until I’m bare
just to have Jack insult me again on the patio,
to wipe Stephen’s vomit out of the nicest
granite sink I’ve ever seen, to listen
to one of the ear-splitting demos
crafted in Evan’s minivan that Mike swears
will send him to LA one day. every day
I’m secretly angry that he was right,
and that Evan and that hot, stuffy van
are moving to Tennessee and won’t
ever fly down route-150 in a panic again
and now Justin apparently kisses people
who actually like him back and doesn’t regret
a thing and I guess everyone is happy but
no one ever fucking bothered to tell me.
all Ariel and I can do now is wipe tears
from each other’s eyes like that night
on the sunroom floor, pressing hard
on each other’s knobby knees scarred
forever from tumbling through Jubilee
park’s trees that loomed run when we dared
look up at the cloud-covered moon,
just to remind each other
that it all actually happened, right?
I should’ve known the night I pulled
the wheel just a bit too hard
and Graham threw up into the gravel
on the side of the road –
we knew it felt like the last summer on earth.
Hide and Seek
Another strip of my blinds broke off last night, cracked and fell down, thrown onto the balcony floor by a friend who looked up at the stars with me. We talked about a lot of things, none of them very poetic.
I mention I’ve been getting maybe-stalked by my ex who only lives three blocks away; he apparently can’t text me back but can walk out of his way to pass by my apartment and look through the window for the third time now. Disgust spills over the railing as she says if he dares cross her path, she’ll go straight for the jugular.
How if she was lucky enough to have a balcony similar to mine, she would bring all her panic out onto that cold, hard concrete. I don’t do that enough. My panic has been locked up lately, due to a fear of the cold and being seen (see previous paragraph), but shouldn’t I take advantage of the fact that the moon shines right above me?
She broke up with her boyfriend; just last month, they were the reason I still believed in love. He still calls her and cries nearly every night, while she still picks up and makes him laugh in return. They only ended things three weeks ago, but some new guitar player is taking her for pasta on Saturday. She asks me to help her figure this out, but to also look up the restaurant’s menu and help choose which wine she should order.
The crunch of glass under her feet; I had forgotten to sweep it up months ago after the screen door fell and broke a few bulbs. Who needs outdoor lighting anyways, I guess. It would only attract more attention.
They finally fixed the broken door that allowed access to the building across the street. Security is important, I get it. The view from the rooftop was also important. Sometimes I could see smoke, sometimes more stars, sometimes I could see a light on in his window, blocks away. Soft, yellow, familiar. Maybe I’m not any better than someone who walks down the sidewalk; just further.
It always seemed to be raining when I walked to that window and was actually let into the elevator. That glowing canopy masquerading as a studio apartment on floor five with my favorite new-hotel smell sat what felt like atop a different world, sheltered from the drizzle at the foot of the bed, overlooking the thousand neon windows outlined through the warm gray haze.
But my hair is always wet and frizzy lately. It’s too embarrassing to carry an umbrella just for a five-minute walk.
So maybe I’ll drive my dusty, gigantic car instead. The first time I picked him up he asked, “I thought you weren’t religious?” when he saw what hung from the rearview mirror. I had to inform him that he in fact only saw a sixteen-month-old air freshener, there was no cross in sight. He
breathed a sigh of relief. “Remember, it’s only sinning if god’s watching.”
In Between Paint Jobs
All of my favorite people are dead. Not
buried underground, but the
calculated, cold type of death,
death where they walk through this threshold, the last
encounter in these halls. I can still hear the latest retreating,
familiar footsteps reverberating through this house. The newest
ghost, added to my dust-covered collection in the
hallways, haunted with their old portraits never packed.
I guess painting my walls a deep maroon,
just how they like it, wasn’t enough for them to stay. I think I
knew, secretly, that it would happen this way, that they’d
linger as another apparition in the cellar, hidden under the porch.
My god, I think they hear me, even from down the street,
No, can’t you hear it too? That empty, hollow echo?
Oh, that’s just the old house again. It’s always wailing, when there’s wind.
Pretending that the portraits, painted gore and gone, can talk back helps, sometimes.
Quiet conversations whispered, or maybe shrieked, across the
run-down corridors where they once lived. Don’t they remember
sleeping here each night, surrounded? Safe? In hushed
tones, I often wonder, do they still run
up to the garden every day at three, and
work themselves to death every night at 5? I’ve become well-
versed enough to know that the none of the portraits on my
walls will ever reveal an answer.
X-amount of questions posed, but they only reflect back another: don’t
you wish you knew? mouths
zipped shut evermore, waiting only to scare off another.