Unspent Breath: Act III Summons the End of Act I

The new year is so young,
it has not learned to crawl
across wooden planks. The century inches

ever closer to the ledge
where it will spill + land
with a splat onto a new millennium.

You listen for the hiss.
You wait for the warmth
from a 1918 pandemic fighting weapon.

The phone rings around midnight—no voice
mail, not even an answering machine
to hate. So you answer it.

So many thousands of miles + days
later, a driver tries to deliver
nothing but a kitchen sink. You refuse

to practice unknowing
his body with yours,
no matter how much a tabula rasa

might clear the way
for self-forgiveness. To open a window
on a January morning in any city

you know best is to admit those scars
are the only tattoos you’ll ever get.
It’s beyond needle phobia at this point.

It’s him. You don’t remember
what he said. It was 1989,
your marathon year. You were going

to go the distance this time.
7,000+ poems yet to be written—
all trying to answer the question.

You cannot memorize it all,
those lines you wrote
about scenes from your life

you only vaguely remember now:
a rooftop in Lagos, a musty hostel
dorm room in Paris, a stairwell

in the Hotel Santorini,
a 3 am swim in a pool somewhere
in New Jersey so close to the hospital

where you were born, a lighthouse
in the distance
with a plane flying overhead.

You keep returning to the same
unreliable narrator.
In your journal, you have written:

Is he lonely?

It was one of the last nights
you would sleep in the Bronx.
Soon you would become a Manhattan girl

for a spell. We were 38 iterations
too late. We did nothing
to minimize regret

for the way we almost
became what we could
never become.

The pronoun keeps shifting
+ slipping from he to she
to they to you to we to

full disclosure: Yes, I am.

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