Monday, April 16, 2018

Quarter-Life Poem: Ten

Ten


Everyone gathered in small circles
their furrowed brows almost
pressing against each other
at the party, they whispered breathy stories
about the end of the world
each one of them certain
they saw the way the world would end
in a childhood dream
but no one agreeing on how we
will loose everything we've ever known.

The people on the outside of the circle
did not want to hear.
Those stories were
already wriggling into their minds
leaking shadows on every passing thought
So they hid
Under the table or in the broom closet
in the cupboard above the sink.
They pressed their sweaty palms against their ears
so they could only hear
the muffled echos of conversation.

In the living room, people were just as restless
they took sweet and bitter gulps of cocktails
and listened to creaking and crackling records
by people who died before they were born.

One man in a bow tie demanded liberation.
He unlatched the door to the bird cage
and released a flock of tropical birds.

There were ten of them
They flew in swooping circles around the room
Stretching their tense unused wing muscles
and despite years of disuse
they remembered perfectly how to fly
they dreamt of flight every night.
As people talked
tiny feathers fluttered from above
and landed on rosy cheeks and soft shoulders.

Someone, protesting the stale air
opened a window
letting the fresh air in
and the ten little birds out.

The birds had never met winter before
and the next morning the neighbor found
their fragile frozen bodies
lying rigid in the snow
ten iridescent specks against the bland shimmer of white.

In ten years, no one remembered
attending the party
except one man
who woke up the next morning in a cupboard
He stumbled to the front door
and saw that his shoes had vanished.
They were somewhere else on some other man's feet.
he walked home through the snow with bare feet
thinking the whole time about sunshine and blueberries.

When he got to the house he shared with his first wife
she was sprawled on the couch
flushed and sweaty with the flu
draped in a ratty pink bathrobe
the TV buzzing blankly in front of her
"Where were you?'
she asked,
"I was wondering
where you were
the entire night."
He stared in her direction
at a hollow spot just above her head
and thought, with a shiver,
of all the things he wanted to do before he died
but at that moment, the only thing he felt like doing
was laying down in the snow
to watch the remaining
birds fly south. 

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