Better Places

Someone should tell that man with the camera that there are better places than this pond.
This pond where people are always picking up after their dogs. The man with the camera
Should know that there are beaches not made of cement. What the hell is he doing with that
telephoto—as if he’ll wait long enough to catch a cougar across the way. Best he’ll get
is a grayish owl that anyone away from this place heard yesterday morning and the morning
before that. Someone should tell him that there are places beyond this place and this sparkling expanse
isn’t anything special. The rumble of the highway drowns out the birds anyways—he
couldn’t even find them if they were there. Sneakers and strollers should stop gathering around him, straining
their eyes, thinking he’s found something fantastic—an Eagle! It must be?
Someone should stop him from this invention. You live nowhere spectacular.

Alfred Stieglitz Left A Pear In A Pin Of Light

Alfred Stieglitz leaves a pear in a pin of light. Leaves it there
watched by a lens that he leaves there too—wide open like when
a child pads blind back to bed. Old photo, the image blurs like windy linen.
Blurs like bleached linen at night in porch light. The pear in the pin wilts
and puffs through an hour’s pivot on the next; of course, perhaps,
the lens is knocked by the hip of Alfred Stieglitz.

And so are you in a pin of light. Breath blurs you in a
waiting lens, or bumped by the hip of Alfred Stieglitz.
You are wilting; everybody says so. You hear them laughing
outside the blackened glass. The longer he leaves you,
the brighter you are and less so are you.
And the pin wanders with the sun. Dawns across a wooden table
and sets orangely on the sill. This, too, blurs you.
You cannot sit still enough to hold form.

Like a pear, like when the white firmament is lost in the waters
Then found again, browned, in the drought. You have
no true edge. The space you take is fuzz. You are
no more than rock, than pebble, than sand, than ocean.
You take space like bread and water. Like stale bread in water.
You took up more room yesterday.

Alfred Stieglitz will come back soon. He’s an old man;
he’s ready for breakfast. He must close the lens or the
dark will be lost in the white. He must take down the canvas
and let in the light.

Round Trip

A ferry ticket never expires. It may wrinkle
in a wallet, but it doesn’t expire. One ticket, one ride.
A frayed stub holds to its serration. This ferry will take you
over foam or frozen water. A ticket meant for the outside ride.
No one stays too long on the island. No one doesn’t travel
round trip. It’s like socks. The swing has to swing back.
Or slow down. Or get caught.

Go ahead now. Scale a tar scaffold. Ascend the elbow
of this dock’s grip. Duck inside the throat.
Hot potato pieces float. Sandy clams sink
through oil and cream. Seats fill quick with pretty ladies
and thick dogs. You might wretch at the sterile mold.
Grip a dirty handle. Wait for some semblance of calm.
Fight the wind or the weight. Cleave the door from its seal.
This kind of sun gives a ferry its white. Air carries its flavor.
Metal holds its chill. The sun makes it all white.
Wind loses your chowder before you can. The horn
Always startles you. The ferry will go. You will all go.
The line of the island will rise like ink into letters.
Recognize crumpling pages of what once lay flat.

Who cuts a round trip sharp? Who split this ticket?
How did you get this slip? At this dock, a ferry ticket
never expires. That’s why we on the land buy in pairs.

When It’s Humid, Cool Air Keeps You Warm

Makes you sweat. Sticks to you under jackets.
Sticks hair to neck and shirt to back.
When you feel your skin shining in the darkness, that’s what this air can do.
These days leave you begging for rain.
Fogs of darkness pull at streetlights, not blending
Like when milk in black coffee spins, like when seagulls swell in storming wind.
In the end, that’s how we lived. He didn’t like coffee,
but always watched me pour the milk. Watched the little galaxy
but never tasted the brownish bitter. These days leave you
Waiting for the sky to break. When the breath in your nose
Enters and exits the same warmth, not like winter.
Winters, air changes inside you. In winter,
You spin the chill in your gut until it comes out heavy.
These days keep things quiet.

Wednesday

I did not know her
my friends they mourn her
I too mourn her
but I did not know her

They said I walked by her on sidewalks
even talked to her perhaps
but I did not see her
and I did not hear her

Supposedly she lived where I lived
and also not
Watched the same movies,
sipped the same coffee shops but
I was living

And she was living apart.

I tried to mourn her on a Wednesday
but had no words to eulogize
I tried to fear what comes again
but had no recollection of that time

I did not know her
and I do not know her still
but I mourn the thing I thought she was
and mourn the thing she is.

16179633_10154333841872607_2378879286068416488_o
Women’s March, Washington D.C. Photo: Robiny Jamerson

Red Light

It was there for almost a second
The green light on the horizon,
Perhaps imagined, but I swear I saw it.
I swear I saw it.

I saw you leaning forward,
Asking questions, smiling
In my direction. You were
smiling.

And God it burned me sent my
Head spinning around the
Dreams I never told you about.

And I talked.
And you talked.
And I talked.
And you talked.
And I talked wrong.
And you slipped out of the dark bar booth
And you slipped out to the night

And I was drunk on my imaginings,
Staggering down the cold damn sidewalk
Beckoning, begging.

And you opened your car door
And I tried to open mine
And I tried to open yours
And I tried to remember what they did in the movies
But the wheels pulled away
And into the street

And there was just enough street light
To watch your face wrinkle and cry
At the red light on Mass Ave and Shepard.

Roastery

I’m applying to creative writing classes. One asked me to write about a favorite place.

My home as of two years ago (and every summer before that) is Buena Vista, Colorado, a town of 3,000 people (when everyone’s home) located at the foot of the Collegiate Peaks. At the center of this mountainous, one-stoplight metropolis is one of my favorite places in the world: The Roastery Café. This corner café, owned by the baseball cap-wearing town mayor (you can’t make this stuff up), is the hub of activity and exchange within my little town. During my time away, I spent many days editing photos in my corner booth, and eventually grew used to the steady stream of visitors and waves from the various people of my town passing through for their daily coffee. Often, my interactions would be brief: Drew, the maintenance guy from the summer camp where my mom works, would say a quick, “Hi,” or a raft guide would ask to pet my dog. Sometimes, friends would sit down and begin long, caffeine-fueled discussions about families, religion, and worldviews. Though I could avoid my Trump-loving friends on Facebook, I couldn’t refuse them a seat across from me at the Roastery. I had to either censor what I say or own it, because private conversations became quickly public. In Social Studies 10, we finished the year off with the German philosopher Habermas, whose hope in society came from places like coffeehouses, where individuals could exchange ideas separately from political or religious settings. I take pride in living in a town where such a coffeehouse exists—where the baristas not only know my top five favorite drinks depending on the temperature and time of day, but also take the personal responsibility of making sure that the townspeople of Buena Vista are happy, cared-for, and safe. This warmth and sense of community has allowed us to develop relationships in a context most societies despise: with strangers in a public place.