Something Like Dragonflies

When you live in a small town, the small town lives in you.
You know everyone.

You know the woman who used to live in the lighthouse.
You know she saw hundreds of dragonflies after
her grandmother died, and again after her husband was shot.
You also know that dragonflies, to her, look something
like second chances.

You know the man who lives on the corner and greets passers-by,
usually while watering his lawn with his thumb pressed up
against the spout of the green garden hose.
You know he has a wife and two little dogs that bark
the way little kids scream.
You know he beats his wife.
You know how she screams,
and it’s not anything
like the little dogs.
You don’t know what second chances look like to her.

You know the old drunk who falls asleep in his chair,
outside, every night.
You know how he slumps over, how his neck curves in
and his head falls down, lolling back and forth
like the pendulum of a grandfather clock.
You don’t know his wife, but you do know she left him, years ago.
You don’t know, but you have an idea of what
second chances look like to him.

You know that little girl, the one with the bucktooth smile
and feet smaller than her hands.
You know how she grew up to watch her father die
in front of her, how he had a heart attack and collapsed,
violently tumbling down the stairs.

You also know her father.
You knew him, before he died.
You knew how much he loved his daughter, but also
how he once tried throwing her out of a moving vehicle.
You didn’t and still don’t know why.

And you know her mother, too.
You knew her, before she died.
She died slowly, a death so imminent it became a greeting.
Goodbye, Mom, good to see you again.

How many dragonflies has that little girl seen?
How many chances does one person get?

You don’t just know the cashiers; you know TJ and Kimmy
and Jeremy’s ex-girlfriend and you notice when
one of them misses a shift.

You don’t hear names; you hear stories.
Even the ones you don’t want to hear.

You know the girlfriend who sneaks in when the wife is away.
And you know the wife.
And the husband.
And the kids.

You know the fishermen, every one of them,
how they wake up before the sun, not always
fishing for fish, but always fishing
for something to catch.

And you get it.
Living in a space like this—it’s big and small.
There are no second chances,
but there are
hundreds
of dragonflies.

As published by the Highlands Boro Arts Council (after winning first place in the Laury Egan HBAC Poetry Contest) 2019

And God Blessed Them, Saying, Be Fruitful and Multiply

I daydream: it’s snowing out
and two people, a man and a woman,

make love upon the white pillows
of flurries. Their fingers are purple

and their toes are turning black,
but their eyes remain focused

on each other, as if whispering
that there is nothing else in this world

to live for. No such thing as love,
just that one moment of euphoria

surging down from one into another
fighting its way to generate life

for no purpose
other than to reproduce again.

And in this thought, half-fearing
that it is the truth

and half-hoping that it is not,
I wonder, who does God pray to?
 
 
 
 
…as published in The Collage, 2010.

Elephants are the only mammals that can’t jump

I wonder what they do when they’re frightened.

The apocalypse is nearing.
Will they join arms and pray for a future?
They have no arms to join.

We will scream, “CHEERS TO THE LIFE WE’VE LIVED!”
Lift our glasses up high,
and never once think of the elephants.

And the elephants will lift their noses to the sky,
toot trumpets in harmony,
and lift all four legs off the ground at once.

The world will cave in,
our drinks will spill,
and the elephants will have a hearty laugh.
 
 
 
 
…as published in The Collage, 2010.