When I talk to my friends I pretend I am standing on the wings of a flying plane. I cannot be trusted to tell them how I am. Or if I am falling to earth weighing less than a dozen roses. Sometimes I dream they have broken up with their lovers and are carrying food to my house. When I open the mailbox I hear their voices like the long upward-winding curve of a train whistle passing through the tall grasses and ferns after the train has passed. I never get ahead of their shadows. I embrace them in front of moving cars. I keep them away from my miseries because to say I am miserable is to say I am like them.
Copyright© 2005 by Jason Shinder. First published in The American Poetry Review, November/December 2005. From Stupid Hope (Graywolf, 2009). Appears with permission of the Literary Estate of Jason Shinder.
I can’t recall where to set the knife and spoon.
I can’t recall which side to place the napkin
or which bread plate belongs to me. Or
how to engage in benign chatter.
I can’t recall when more than one fork—
which to use first. Or what to make of this bowl of water.
I can’t see the place cards or recall any names.
The humiliation is impressive. The scorn.
No matter how much my brain “revises” the dinner
to see if the host was a family member—
I can’t recall which dish ran away with which spoon.
From Brain Fever (W. W. Norton, 2014). Copyright © 2014 by Kimiko Hahn. Used with permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
I fear the vast dimensions of eternity. I fear the gap between the platform and the train. I fear the onset of a murderous campaign. I fear the palpitations caused by too much tea. I fear the drawn pistol of a rapparee. I fear the books will not survive the acid rain. I fear the ruler and the blackboard and the cane. I fear the Jabberwock, whatever it might be. I fear the bad decisions of a referee. I fear the only recourse is to plead insane. I fear the implications of a lawyer’s fee. I fear the gremlins that have colonized my brain. I fear to read the small print of the guarantee. And what else do I fear? Let me begin again.
From Selected Poems by Ciaran Carson, published by Wake Forest University Press. Copyright © 2001 by Ciaran Carson. Reprinted with permission by Wake Forest University Press. All rights reserved.
A boy told me if he roller-skated fast enough his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him, the best reason I ever heard for trying to be a champion. What I wonder tonight pedaling hard down King William Street is if it translates to bicycles. A victory! To leave your loneliness panting behind you on some street corner while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas, pink petals that have never felt loneliness, no matter how slowly they fell.
Naomi Shihab Nye, "The Rider" from Fuel. Copyright © 1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.
My pants could maybe fall down when I dive off the diving board. My nose could maybe keep growing and never quit. Miss Brearly could ask me to spell words like stomach and special. (Stumick and speshul?) I could play tag all day and always be "it." Jay Spievack, who's fourteen feet tall, could want to fight me. My mom and my dad—like Ted's—could want a divorce. Miss Brearly could ask me a question about Afghanistan. (Who's Afghanistan?) Somebody maybe could make me ride a horse. My mother could maybe decide that I needed more liver. My dad could decide that I needed less TV. Miss Brearly could say that I have to write script and stop printing. (I'm better at printing.) Chris could decide to stop being friends with me. The world could maybe come to an end on next Tuesday. The ceiling could maybe come crashing on my head. I maybe could run out of things for me to worry about. And then I'd have to do my homework instead.
From If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries . . ., published by Macmillan, 1981. Used with permission.