IT IS AS IF WE ARE SEEING WHAT IS INSIDE US
When I go to the post office, I admire all the mystery inside the boxes with their golden doors. In the end we are all just containers for things like memories and air and food and water. I say to the woman I am with, "Pretty cool." Bronze tenements rise up--a fancy morgue--fastidiously locked. Nontime exists inside them.
When I go to the airport, the voice on the intercom announces all the places we will never go. Luggage wobbles on tiny wheels. We live in the nonplace between hello and good-bye--the hole where the luggage goes. I admire the intimacy of the metal detector. A woman ponders over her recently exposed makeup kit. All these stories unfold into embraces, tears, sadness. Joy. We watch the astounding baggage stagger out from behind the thick rubber flaps.
AND THEN ONE DAY THE FIRE IN OUR OWN HEAD HAD NOTHING TO CATCH ON TO
And then one day there were no more stories to tell. It was as if somebody had sponged up our memories. And then it happened.
When you get to be my age, it is hard to remember which ones of my former companions and members of my family have died.
I can never ask how so-and-so is for fear that the answer will be "Oh, he's dead." Then I say, "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know." And then they say, "You were at the funeral."
I've gotten to the age where it is safer for me to assume that everyone I know has died.
My footprints covered in snow, I create a new alphabet. I am being followed. I take on a new identity and memorize my cover.
I will tell you so many stories about me—all true, all beautiful, all terrible—that you will never be able to know me. There will be an avalanche of mes—one tumbling after another.
I meet a man who tells me what is wrong with America. What gay people should do. What minorities should do. I decode him.
Deconstruction destroyed our utopias. Because we have lost our ability to dream, we slowly suffocate under our things. Eventually we will be told that nothing further can be done, and an immense calm will settle around us.
I meet the person in the nursing home whose job it is to lie down with the dying--so they will not die alone.
I'm a triple agent.
Maybe I should go back to sleep--or maybe I should wake up. The covert agent's last words: Call me if you need anything.
When I walk outside I sense the hiddenness of things. I put these words inside the dead drop: What does it mean to be someone?
Patrick Lawler has published 6 books of poetry. His novel Rescuers of Skydivers Search Among the Clouds won the Ronald Sukenick/ABR Innovative Fiction Award and was published by University of Alabama Press (2012). A selection of his stories The Meaning of If was published by Four Way Books in 2014. His story, "The Zeno Question," appeared in Issue #39 of The Cafe Irreal.