I Thought I Could Be Somebody Else
Ruler snaps on my desk:
——————–I am not a stick
——————–beating the chain-link. Not a power plant arcing with blue light.
———-I am probably a dahlia
with a face like an empty plate, who does not have the words to claim
———-“I am wild.” I try them out,
——————–but wild skitters on the stage like it’s wearing lard. So
no, I didn’t throw the ball that hit Miss Cafarelli’s window.
———-All I did was lie and take the blame for the jug-headed boy
——————–because I thought it would be easier for everyone –
Which is wild? To be the smashed jar
———-or the jar I can open by myself?
Am I the jar with its vinegared things cut all the same size,
———-covered in vintage gingham?
———-Why can’t this lid
——————–rattle around the jar-threads? Refuse to close up tight?
———-Maybe I’d like to have a head
of garlic, a tomato face, an ant that fell in the brine
and died, a long pepper
like a you-know-what –
I cannot wear the mossy beard and the straw suit
———-some men wear for Carnival. They think
——————–they are hiding, and they think hiding makes them strong.
I know how to hide: you take a bell and you ring it
and you ring it and you ring it
——————–and after a while nobody wants to hear it, and then
they just don’t.
you were like this fictional Soviet inventor who catapulted himself to the moon.
He built a slingshot from elastic bands and a tractor seat, broke open the roof, and—
boom. I kept working in the munitions factory, kept washing my feet after work
as we used to. I’d heat a kettle on the communal stove, beside Mrs. Starsteva’s onions,
pour it in a basin and let it cool. I’d wander your room, admiring your posters
of red and stars and alien deserts. I’d thought Mars—“Mongolia,” you had said.
I rubbed my soles very hard with the green soap bar. Roughed my heels with a towel
as if to make them smoother. As if that mattered—
I’ll tell it straight. You left yourself, for a time. Lurked beside dim lamps all night.
I’d find wrung-out tea bags in the sink, clumped like sacks of autumn leaves.
When I changed the sheets from flannel to cotton, you were a lump in the bed.
I pulled a quilt over you as you slept, tucked it under in hospital corners,
like my mother had taught me. Then I’d sit in the steaming kitchen, watch the yard
in case you staggered up, fresh from the moon, Mars, the dead parts of the ocean,
your feet leaving wet diamonds where you walked.
© Lauren Carpenter
Lauren Carpenter earned her MFA at Purdue University. Her poems have previously appeared in The Greensboro Review, Dark Sky Magazine, and The Lumberyard. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she works for a healthcare software company.
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