Separately, I am

by Jack H Grimes


June birthday dreading May’s end. Creature lopsided in time, fumbling through dinner parties and dreadful fiction steaming off mouths of those who know me as a character dressed to entertain in candle-lit alleyways never much below the surface of a dazed end, of a person personified ripped up from quiet musings and written into herself, into summertime air, into a room of people stretching arms out for a touch, for a glimpse of a figure torn from doom. Yesterday I sat watching a bird sit atop my neighbor’s chimney until my eyes burned away. Blinded I tiptoed the length of my bedroom wondering if the man here before me would’ve been my friend, if the family eating dinner below me would laugh me into childhood, if I know the state of being a child, if the oak tree beside the farmhouse has fallen yet to crush the beds collecting dust in memory of themselves, to make home a lily pressed into the scrapbook of the earth, only visited in cracked pictures which burn my fingertips with wax and rancor.   I’ll keep in a cage this cry for it all. Twelve years old,  according to the man  in airport security  who rips me up  from sleep  to examine the  lines on my face.  He must see the  worry on my lip,  he must see the tense  of my shoulders. I tell  him I’m nineteen.  I want to say I’m  getting on a plane  for a meeting that  will end in a  bedroom. Still a  child, at least. Still?     Surely this is not the rusted limp of a child.  Surely I am eating the year away.       A frigid thing. He says I sleep like a child beside you; my  shoulders relax into even-bristled sheets, city-stress yielding  off my lips. Surely this is not where I am.      Surely I exist in the world the way a harp might  strum itself into a locked doldrum, the way a bear  might eat a beehive whole.     I press my lips to the pillow, move them (drowning  his steady breath), I can’t be this. I am not meant to be  this.Not like anything / by way of being nothing.  A stomach-trenched need to feel the release  of wet flesh burn in back of throat before  white smoke outcast from feeble mouth  which lingers in blackened sky and  for a wasteful second reminds the lungs that  churned memories can be expelled, reminds  the back it may be popped, weight exercised  from muscles, reminds the eyes that they  may droop, may wander the streets without  remorse, may yield the pity long forgotten in  tears dropping from stairwells.       Strange precipice, or, fixed tilting clumsy titles two  shoulders situated in two times, hoping for a breath  break to fixed times, these months     (fastened droughts of your mouth on mine or my mouth on mine or  mother’s mouth reaching into mine, pulling birthright, pulling blind  baby brought forth to adulthood swerving between personhoods)    I always dread. A dream in which friends are artifices and time  has become more than a feather wisping into verse,  a frame showcasing change in a hypocrite’s rearview. June disappeared so easily? I will not write of this again,  I say and I say and I say, to no one (to the dusk outside  my window) until my knuckles fall apart from the  pressure and my fingers remain dusty in their place.    These months are not thieves, yet I am a thing stolen.


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