BY KRISTIN ROBERTSON
I never planned to track down
every person I ever kissed, but
after I win the lottery and stumble
into Collier, my junior prom date,
on the metro in Madrid, it becomes
my thing. I gather souvenirs. From Collier
a paper fan with Picasso’s
Guernica accordioned inside it:
the bull, the flames, the women
screaming. Collier’s friend
Leland (may he rest) sleepwalked
upstairs during a housefire, so
I drive to the field where
we traded spit only once.
I liked breathing his name
Leland in the baseball diamond,
my hands field-chalked into
snowy owls, so I funnel
the marking powder into a vial
of coke on Becca’s keychain.
Becca also a one-off, a make-
shift porch party, my boyfriend
busy under some overpass
When I find him in Cabbagetown
he apologizes for the abortions,
both of them, twenty years like
yesterday, asks to bum money
for Newports. I unfold what
I have on me into green wings.
When he fumbles his lighter
I slip it into my jeans, the fifth
pocket, otherwise useless.
They weren’t all like this.
Some I loved: Jamie Webb
in third grade who died looking up.
In a lightning storm, he gripped
the tent pole. His mother writes
coordinates along the tendons
of my wrist. When I follow them
to an outlet mall, I cry and buy
a pretzel. I wash my ventral
tendon like a ventral fin,
and I do swim out to an offshore
oil rig where I reunite with
the heroin dealer I loved for
six years. Mike offers a tar ball,
names the shells I collected
on my swim Grace and Grace
and Grace, just like his cats.
Brian was allergic, but he slept
on the floor of my hospital room
for ten nights and married me.
He had nothing else to give
beyond divorce papers and
seventeen crystal flutes I smashed
for glitter the Halloween I ended up
at the Clermont Lounge and fell
in love for an hour with a stripper.
Chandra worked the unlit end
of a match into her nipple.
Between songs, she explained
Chandra means moon in Sanskrit,
as in chandrasana, half the moon.
We meet for tea. She doesn’t remember
me, of course, but she pretends.
I slide an envelope of my windfall
up the stripper’s thigh, and Chandra
says, Don’t go turning what I give you
as a souvenir into a bird. Only it is
a bird, a stolen cassowary from
the Atlanta Zoo. I walk it twelve
blocks to the subway, cradle its
oceanic neck and vestigial spike
in my lap, along with the lit match,
the glitter, the Graces. The latitudes
and lightning, the owl vials and
housefires, the bulls and screams.
All the diamonds. It might be used
to attract a mate, he says, the man
next to me, as he traces the cassowary’s
crest. But no one knows for sure.
From his small backpack, the bird’s
favorite: a fallen plum eaten whole.