BY SARAH KAY
Where is my prize for most unreliable narrator?
I would never lie to you, but I lie to me all the time.
I say, Look at that bird, this childhood memory,
that light falling on his body in the steam,
and say, Boom. A stone truth. A poem. And you trust me.
You trace your finger along the constellation I’m insisting into existence
and let my rickety astrology determine the weather.
But this is all dominos.
I am just trying to place enough words between now and The End
to trick The End into coming later.
I slip single doses of myself into the pockets of everyone I love,
worried about serving sizes, hoping they do not sour once I’m gone.
I spent thirty-two years in New York City
and every metaphor is stacked with taxi cabs and subways.
I spent two weeks in the woods and suddenly every poem swelled
with rhododendrons and the smell of firewood.
I am the most porous sponge that ever sponged.
I throw myself off every emotional cliff and build a pogo stick on the way down.
I am not an optimist but I play one in the group chat.
I don’t know who I think I need absolution from,
but I carry around a shiny report card everywhere I go just in case.
I thought I wanted a boyfriend but I actually wanted an audience.
My father carried dried mushrooms from the market
to the wood table on the front porch so he could watch
the way the late afternoon sun made patterns in their crackled skin
and called my mother out of the house so she could stand next to him
and look at it too. They were so excited, they forgot to close
the screen door and the bugs made a home of the kitchen.
I have never accomplished anything in my life
other than the seven mile run to the lighthouse.
This land—someone else’s, this language—someone else’s,
even the churning fear that pours out of me—an inheritance,
or if not an inheritance, then a reaction—a riverbank
formed out of a rushing past I had nothing to do with.
I make a phone call and when you don’t pick up,
the whole house falls down around me.
I am the center of my own dramatic universe and it appalls me.
In my dream, from somewhere down a hallway of locked doors, a voice asks,
What if you aren’t as bad as you suspect you are?
What if you’ll never be as good as you ache?
And then, softer, in the kind of whisper that wouldn’t even fog the glass,
What if what you are is boring
and alive, what are you going to do then?