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The Man from Somewhere Else
You came home with a black eye,
Rolling in Applecross Street in your brand new Cadillac
The sky was the color of marmalade and
You smelled like the electrical circuits outside my house,
But you tasted like strawberry.
Your touch is different depending on the time of day,
From concrete fingernails
to velvet palms.
Your eyes are the
shape of almonds
And match the telephone lines draped down the street.
You reached for the cigarettes besides my hand,
I leaned my head back;
So close but so far away,
You do not know your effect.
You remembered me when everyone else forgot
And I remembered you.
You don’t like the color purple, or sitting for too long,
Or that woman we met on the ocean bluffs.
I told you that I climbed a mountain, and you smiled.
Do you know your hair is silver in the sunlight?
We have the same shadows and
They both taste like molasses.
You sat beside me on the couch because
You saw I was alone.
We sank into pictures
on our phones
Laughing about the past.
Doesn’t matter that your past is twice as deep as mine.
You waited for me outside the café,
A vicuna scarf tucked
under your chin.
We climbed the rocks and you said to listen to the ocean
And for once the ocean was saying kind things.
You didn’t think I would be
who I was;
You adapted to who
I turned out to be.
I loved the creases around your mouth because
They showed how many times smiled.
Our shoulders touched
in the cathedral,
Looking up at the
crucified holy child,
The air clogged with frankincense,
And neither of us believed in him.
You always drink wine with dinner and let me have a sip,
Red or white.
I want to sit on the floor with you
And laugh about abstract art.
They always said you were too far out of my reach,
Too far away,
But I proved them wrong.
You held the umbrella
during the hurricane,
Said don’t worry, so I didn’t worry.
You remembered my favorite color.
You taste like strawberry and wine on Applecross Street.
You take your glasses
off for pictures,
You smell like the mountain peaks.
You cried when I left and
I had never seen a man cry before.
You’ll never know how much that meant to me.
You tasted like strawberry.
I have a picture of you in the park.
The one I took on that
sunny summer day,
But now it doesn’t feel real, because it was too sweet.
My phone still rings clear,
Like the church bells that echoed through the park.
I want to hear the bells.
You are the integer that balances the equation.
Too many standard deviations away from me.
My desolation called;
I’ll put it on hold again.
Words stuck in my throat
that I can’t swallow.
I want to stamp your coordinates on my skin to make you feel closer,
To tell everybody about you, but I’ve got the problem
Of melting like candle wax when I say your name.
Reputation sucked down the drain.
I thought I was better at playing chameleon than this.
I’ve manifested into a violently misinterpreted Greek tragedy.
I’ve got to drain this
puss in my head,
So I spill my guts
to the chimney sweep
As he nods and wipes his nose.
I told the janitor at midnight that you like white wine over red,
And that sometimes I see your face in supermarket cellophane,
And in newly-polished tile floors.
I take a clean cross section of my brain and serve myself a slice.
Tastes like sugar
and a metal spoon,
And your laugh.
I’ve got no idea what I’m doing.
I’m flipping marbles instead of coins and I’m
Smoking a bar of TNT.
I’ve got sulci in my brain
Probably as deep as
the Atlantic Ocean.
I’ll go in for the deep dive soon, maybe bring you back a pearl.
My house rings with emptiness,
I am that great bronze bell at the center of it all,
With a crack straight down the middle,
Like the bells in the park
Bing, bang, bong.
I’ve dreamt of you seven times this week.
I am one Plank length away from whispering your name,
Gentle enough that I might pretend it was a kiss, but
Bing, bang, bong.
I want to hear the bells, but
Faces on a Friday Night
There are faces crossed out of the pictures hanging in your house.
They weren’t like that the last Friday night I was here.
We play cards across from each other at the dinner table,
Dishing out napkins like emerald green bills, and you don’t mention a thing about it.
It started out with one, I saw.
I never paid much attention, you see, to those photos hanging on the wall half way up the stairs.
Relatives of your wife, I assume.
I used to have a habit of picking out fake smiles in those frozen memories, but I’ve gotten tired of that.
I’ve gotten tired of a
lot of things, like
Not knowing which side of the scale I am on,
If I am dragging it down or lightening it up with a feathery disposition, or
If I am the scale itself.
Next time I visit two more faces are crossed out.
Not with pen on the picture, but with something sharp against the protective glass.
I’ve looked at this picture before, the one to the right of the fireplace,
But I can’t recall the person now.
I stand near it as I set down my glass, trying to bring attention without words, but you
Just keep talking to me like I’m standing in outer space.
Like I’m frozen in time, a computer that just dove into a
blue screen of death.
You make me feel like the very moment a fork is shoved into an electrical socket, and that’s a very particular feeling.
The third time I come over, half of the people in your pictures are scratched out.
Shredded like incriminating documents,
Government secrets, and family secrets.
To this day, no one knows which is more dangerous.
But I think I’ve got an idea here, as we play cards in the evening,
In winter, when the sky gets dark faster, and it gets harder
To see the faces in the pictures.
I’m thinking we should
drink a little more,
And maybe you can show me the razor you use to shave
And to scratch out glass.
Don’t worry about running out of time.
We don’t have to jump any hurdles. Just wait for the earth to turn,
Like a windup toy,
Like arms on a clock,
Like your eyes flicking from your cards, to me, to the picture of your wife on the coffee table.
The next time I show up you’ve got blood on your hands.
The sharp, transparent blood of the faces you’ve been scratching up,
And you freeze when you see me.
Like you’re afraid I might just scratch up your face too.
Sorry I’m early but you see, the early bird gets the worm.
I take your face in my hands,
Gentle lilac, ocean breeze, leaves falling to the forest floor,
Like I’m cupping pure water.
You are so lonely.
You’re left in the dark when your wife goes to work and
Your kids don’t call anymore.
You play cards with yourself in the dark on bad days,
And dare to turn the lights on during the good ones, but never take a glance at your own reflection in your wine glass.
I suppose to you, your own face has become akin
To a whiteboard that a
kindergarten teacher lost
Behind a drawer,
Scrawled with brilliantly nonsensical drawings by children that have long since grown up.
You call me over because you don’t want to be left
alone on a Friday night,
And you know I’ve got nothing better to do.
Because otherwise I’m just sitting in the corner on rainy days
Where I’m daydreaming of all the conversations we might never have.
You don’t clean the lenses on your glasses when you’re alone, because it’s easier to ignore
All the things in your house that you don’t want to see anymore.
Because even though you have all the time in the world, there’s still not enough to cross out
all the faces in your pictures.
So forget about it.
I’ve always been standing on the edge of a cliff,
Trying not to kiss you.
But you just melt in my hands,
Butter losing form as it drifts over the pan on the stove.
I know your wife and she won’t mind. You don’t even wear your wedding ring anymore,
You make up all these elaborate excuses, but you’re not sitting alone in the dark now.
I’m lonely too,
And I’ll sit with you.
Willow Schafer is a student of anthropology originally from Ohio with a lifelong passion of literature and art. She draws much of her inspiration for her writing from the time she spent traveling throughout America, Europe, and living in Spain for three months. She has been published in several literary magazines such as the Scarlet Leaf Review, Uprising Review, AntipodeanSF, Quantum Muse, and Jumbelbook.