Circuitry

Janine Joseph

I.

The rung wide
           receiver forgets why

he set his keys on the football field.
           Whose are they? he asks—a ringing

in his ear—while clenching
           the green. As if on the edge

of a pool, he tilts his head to drain
           water out of his canal.

It was like that, all the time,
           after. How many fingers?

he was asked, and not to tell
           a lie—it would mean his career.

It would mean recognizing you
           without your jacket when you

walked out of the room. It would mean
           you could say, Stay here

with me, and in his eyes
           could watch him come back.


II.

I spiral the parking lot, singing,
           It’s alright, I’m alright,

while I count the pole lights back
           to my car. I practice red, table, lamp

with a neuropsychologist and now
           I can tell you about how my brain

blew in the acceleration. I was in
           a locked position—the details

unbearably clear in the replay and, still,
           no one else heard me swallow

the impact. Bend at your hips
           from your two-point stance and, there,

the muffler is a finger wagging
           one one one inches from the ground.

The tire-less car rests on its crutch
           of blocks, the windows a crunch

of glass. Are you feeling the rush now
           as you look to me, your brain still

in your head—is it still in your head?
           Can you point for me where

it happens in the connection, where
           on the line the old equipment

resets itself and loops?
           Is what you say the truth?

More by Janine Joseph

The Persistence of Symptoms

During the short sale I moved my desk toward Charlie’s 
so that every day, when we came back from work,

he could say, It’s not even your house, to my face 

when I’d fret, I can’t lose another thing. 

Most of what I owned was slopped in return boxes 
from other states and when I visited home 

I complained about how I ever slept on that twin, 

how my father couldn’t even dust the Venetian blinds 

once in a while. It was the sixth or seventh house 
I’d lived in, and not even one I’d say I grew up in

—I’d say the neighbors maybe found us eccentric 

with the trellis heavied by wind chimes and roots invading 

the porch’s foundation—so he was right 
to put the noise cancelling headphones I gave him 

back on while I agitated the sink. But it was our house 

for a while, the lawn tended, the gnomes in a collection,

and before I used it as storage, I worried in it 
about changing the motion sensors and whether 

the leaky faucet was drowning the persimmon tree 

my late grandmother and late beagle loved. 

Charlie replied always with concern 
about my Googling old addresses again. 

No one hated sentimentality more than I, 

but when I flew back to consolidate my boxes, 

I didn’t know where to start. 
Crayons, a below-zero sleeping bag, so many albums 

of things I couldn’t place. My things and what were 

not my things. I circled trash bags around me 

in the garage and tuned the radio in tears. 
Just like that, it was for weeks. Inspecting frames, 

books, dishes—separating what was not broken from 

what was, dumping when I knew the difference. 

Related Poems

Imaginary Hollywood

The set was on when she fell asleep

 

In black and white

 

a woman  was gliding through a garden in period clothes

 

and a child was touching

 

 a pane of wavy  glass with the flat of her hand

 

Another woman

 

was all but flying down a spiral stairs in a flouncy gown

 

that showed off

 

the cut of her breasts and a lone golden strand

 

of hair playing at her ear

 

It was because of…she didn’t want to grow any older

 

her resistance

 

was strong the dream’s spores hung in the air

 

in another room

 

a parent was dying in short shallowing breaths

 

she needed

 

somewhere to put all of that emotional excess

 

that’s the way

 

it was when she began talking in fake accents 

 

sleeping late

 

as a lake to avoid as many hours of living

 

dread as if dread

 

could be outslept; the stretch limo

 

in her eleven-year-old

 

head wrapped itself around the corner

 

That’s the way

 

it would be, everyone slender as drinking straws

 

nobody leaky

 

or hurting or abjectly religious, everything

 

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