Michael Meyerhofer


It's going to be awkward if we don't live that long,
what with me having written this whole poem
imagining the grand discussion we'll have
in a plastic city orbiting our green-girdled earth
or maybe the alcove of some post-apocalyptic ruin,
detailing our predictable string of romantic
failures—lamenting, too, this inexpressible ache
wriggling though every last one of our joints,
but finding that otherwise, not much has changed,                         
like a long rope tied with two identical knots

or two haughty sailboats nearly capsized despite
the lanterns they wave across darkened water.




I remember how her mouth lay open:
eyes drooped like a sack of kittens,
jaw slack though not quite in horror, more
like a kind of pre-biblical awe—
the same way she slept in the backseat
on that two-day car ride to Colorado,
west through a sand trap labyrinth
of cornfields and Nebraska truck stops,
five of us sweat-knitted shoulder
to shoulder without air conditioning
or good humor as we worked our way
through gas station maps toward
a ski slope and a distant uncle's condo.

So that by the time she fell asleep
a ways outside Lincoln, snoring,
wet-lipped, she'd lost all trace of being
my mother—so that I pressed myself
to the window glass and waited
for my own body to make me older,
though it did not answer until that morning
we found her on the other side
of the bathroom door, hours dead,
countenance all but identical, her
nightgown scissored so that her breasts
which I had not beheld in years
jostled beneath the paramedics' fists.




First, you should feel very glad
for having read this poem. Don't panic.
All you have to do is break
the slats. Breathing will be easier
if you knot your shirt tight
around your face—a caul. Your eyes
can't help you now so leave them
closed. Don't waste breath on prayers
or strength on punches. Instead,
use your knees to start an avalanche.
Don't stop. When loose soil starts
to flow through the cracks, pretend
you're riding a bicycle through
a rural downpour. Don't mind
the splinters. Remember, if you can sit,
you can kneel. Then, you can stand.