Once upon a time long long ago
I was born in Syracuse & immediately
My life was so bright then it flickered.
It’s Monday: a spreadsheet, empty and full
of numerical potential. The light in the office
is the color of my hangover. The coffee tastes automatic,
pressed by a machine—the printer smells electric
and inky and warm. My short sleeves remind me
that it’s summer. I’m busy thinking about caterpillars,
or inchworms, or whatever they’re called:
the little silky ones you find in corn.
I should be making phone calls but for some reason
I’m stuck in childhood, remembering how badly
I wanted to become a paleontologist when I grew up
because of Jurassic Park and Alan Grant
and his ever-hidden, Velociraptor claw memento,
always reminding him to keep scratching
at the surface of things.
I’m always scratching at the surface of things.
After dinosaurs, History bored me.
math was too hard and linear—didn’t make
much sense for a future-dinosaur-digger-upper
to solve quantum equations—only reason to study math
would be if you were going to figure out
planetary alignments, or verify String Theory,
or illuminate any indication of connectedness
of the universe so you could somewhat
guestimate the weight of your soul in grams
and how far it could float after you died.
As a kid, I tried so hard to believe in Heaven.
In my primary Sunday school classes,
they said if I prayed hard enough
I could talk to God
and He’d give me a sign.
But all I heard was everything inside my head
and it didn’t make sense to be talking
to what never felt like anything but me.
The one time I came close
to hearing an answer
was after I had turned eight
and had been baptized
and was walking out of the church—
a freshly washed, clean slate.
I heard thunder and said fuck it’s raining
& saw God in my head
write my name down on His giant chalkboard
for cursing & so I tried to repent as fast as I could,
but heard God’s nails screech
across the chalkboard, and knew He saw
through me—that I wasn’t really sorry
for saying the fuck word, and that probably
I’d do it again, so I’d better stop lying
before He put another check mark
by my name. So I sat down and stayed quiet
and tried not to think about my soul.
I wonder if I thought about death
as a child as much as I do now,
what with feeling lighter the older I get.
So light, I’m practically a photon
and I only get upset about real things these days.
The littler things tend to carry the most weight.
Like hearing my little brother, Ryan,
finally admit he stole the money from me,
especially after I screamed at him
& said horrible things
and we didn’t speak for 8 months,
not even while he was doing a third stint in rehab.
But now he’s happy and he’s in love
with the planet again. Last night,
I watched A River Runs Through It
and started crying before the end,
when you’re supposed to cry.
I think it was somewhere in the beginning
when they’re just kids laying out under
the Montana skyline—I remembered
when Ryan and I were young enough
to do that: to feel summer’s airs
breathe through us so smoothly
we didn’t even think about exhales.
When death wasn’t anything more
than a storm cloud—dark, loud, and threatening,
but so far off in the distance,
you knew you could never reach it.
But once we’re born we start dying immediately.
Doesn’t matter if you call the clouds
Death or God, they’re still the same thing.
Childhood just cradles our fathoms of it all.
I mean, who are we but our mortal selves entombed
in the flesh of our reflections?
Guess we won’t know until we get there.
Guess my boss isn’t really paying me to decide all this.
Front page image by Marcelo Alves.