Magic Hour, Bronx, 7 PM
When the train rose all magic-hour-like
up to 161st in the Bronx & I looked up
from the Dillard essay I had assigned
my community college class, the city looked
on the precipice of something apocalyptic
yet kind. Like God (are you there?) melted
a Jolly Rancher over us all. We would be
sticky & sweet, licking fingers & toes of sugar
before jumping into rivers. God serves
as a useful tool in poetry because I can
bring him (or her? sorry) in when I want
and leave her (or him? apologies) out
when he-she-it-I-they is not needed.
I have tried to do this with people
but have found that they will hate me
for it & I cannot tell if this is proof
either that God does not exist or that
people don’t. There is too much going on.
On the train the people wore headphones
& all was silent. Dillard writes that the mind
wants the world to return its love, but I know
it won’t. My mind’s love is a dream
of heaven. My mind’s love is the smell
of a burning leaf. My mind’s love means
that I might die before the world is ready,
or, worse, that the world might die
before I am ready. & somewhere out
there someone is humming & have you
noticed that many things carry a human
sound? The whisper of electricity, the
stomach gurgle of an old car. It was dark
when class started & Richard had his head
on his desk. When I asked him where he was
last class, he said he got lost. I didn’t ask
where or why or how. I wanted to smile
but instead sipped a cold cup of Dunkin' Donuts
coffee. It was dark, still. Richard got lost
& I thought of that Joni Mitchell song
where Joni sings about how all good dreamers
pass this way someday & Richard got lost
& I thought of where or why or how &
though I didn’t ask, I thought that Richard
could tell me a fine & beautiful story
one day & I would love to listen, in a dark café.
Poem for a Child Running Away from Home
You walk the long road till dawn.
There is water & a stream & all of Arizona
cliff-cut & bruised. You stop to drink.
Your brother & you watched Men in Black 2
in a small room inside the rehab facility.
You want to remember this for a long time.
The smell of cold turkey, Heinz 57 sauce,
a sky that held a sky that held a sky that held a
plane, & how your friend George years later
would write a poem that said: did you know
a kiss could leave contrails in the air?
You can be anything you want to be,
except now. Now, you are the wind
that blows the dust that hides the prints
your footsteps make as you walk away.
Now, you are the ink your mother used
when she wrote I’ll be back later & later
became a day & then a month & then
a plane trip to Arizona where most things
dry up in the sun & you don’t understand
how someone could get better here.
So you leave. You can be anything
you want to be except a good son.
You can be a fighter pilot parachuting
out of a test plane somewhere over
Pomerene, Dos Cabezas, Tombstone.
You can be a face you put on at parties.
You can be the words you use to make
someone feel sorry for you. You can be
the plane crashing into the side of a mountain.
Stop drinking. Don’t you know most water
is bad for you? Save for the small cupped ounces
they gave your mother to help her swallow
the sedatives just a minute after she birthed you?
You didn’t know that, did you? It’s a pain
to bring someone into the world. The stream
will dry up soon. You will be cold
without the desert sun. You will miss
everyone. Call George. Tell him
there are planes flying forever overhead.
Tell him about the lacey remnants
they trace along the sky. Tell him
there must be so many people kissing now,
kissing long & hard & into the dawn.
Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is a co-host of the Dead Rabbits Reading Series in Manhattan. His collaborative chapbook with Melissa Smyth, This Cup of Absence, is forthcoming from Anchor & Plume Press, and his other work has appeared in Drunken Boat, Gigantic Sequins, Post Road, The Millions, and more. He's on twitter @themoneyiowe.