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.
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.