Back to Issue Forty-Three

Origin Story, 1993


Your grandma says you look just like your cousin
Frank, mostly in the eyes when you grin.

They chuckle at the dinner table when there is Frankie
in your hair, towhead cowlicks bolting into sky

like strands of snapped hay. No one stays
long on the subject, really – just the way he lives

in your laugh, your funny faces, how he smokes
like a ghost from your whistle. Once, your nan

had to grip the back of a chair to keep from
buckling. And he’s not dead. He just moved.

They told him he had to. So he bought a blue
‘82 pickup & went to New York to “get AIDS

and die.” Which he did. But not before
filling his lungs with sky the size of God

country & the new-fashion baptism of
a sequined, hungry life. Not before flashing

through a decade of open-mouth laughter & living
room play readings, crowded apartment holidays

& finally, the big breaks. Not before the coke
parties & park muggings & good news to share

with the boys & dinners at diners that let you run
a tab & hard news to share with the boys. Not before

beach houses wind-whipped with salt
& memory, where they sit arms pretzeled to watch

the sun steal into the other life. But that’s later.
It is 1993. You are nine-and-a-half but going on

knowing. It’s the fourth of July & everyone is here
except everyone who never is. Your giggle

lingers like grease on the walls as you float
the hallway, dull murmur carrying on from the kitchen

& there—frozen on the dresser, like a trophy
& a prayer. He kisses you back.


Adam Falkner is a poet, performer, educator, and a race & equity strategist. His is the author of The Willies (Winner of the 2021 Midwestern Independent Book Award), and his work has appeared in The New York Times, Painted Bride Quarterly, Thrush, Diode Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. He holds a PhD in English & Education from Columbia University, and lives in Brooklyn.

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