I'm thinking of a number between 1 and my own mortality. Guess when I die and win a prize! My CAT Scan suggests a 50/50 chance to live and, therefore, love, though I only went in for a simple flu shot. Unfortunately, the doctor’s bedside manner may be the only action I'll ever get. True or False: “tongue depressor” is an oxymoron. Physicians instruct their patients to open up their mouths and say aaaahhh in order to a form a diagnosis. But who looks after them when they become divorced, diseased, immobile on their deathbed. Hurting is universal. The square root of any man is always divisible by grief.
The moral of the story is Don't let anyone see you. To be effective but discreet. Like high cholesterol. Like cancer. Like kids who shoot up their schools. A rampage takes place and a threat to the principal’s office can't compete with premeditated plans to assassinate harassing classmates. Where there are bullies, there are bullets. So little of a life there is to flash before a teenager’s eyes when facing impending death. Open your textbook and take notes. There's a science to self-concealment. Clear forecasts mock the irony of not a cloud in the sky. Even thunderstorms understand the mechanics of raining on a parade.
Further is degree and farther is distance and I never met a horizon I didn't like. In this moment, you are a generation of debris and dust. An incidental combustion, something like grace. Elitist clouds look down on the sky and forget what it's like to fall so close to a common ground. The wind sways as if a bitter pendulum, and every exhale is a suppressed sigh. Cue the little boy swinging the kite string like communicating with angels. Enter his mother shaking her head at the invalidity of her horoscope. So much disbelief in a world where Heaven can be pluralized.
When mentioning the bathwater one must also include the baby left on the doorstep, the discarded infant set down underneath the glow of a flickering porch light. Speak of the newborn swaddled in freshness, sibling with the stars. To neglect the full story is akin to suggesting it didn't exist. Filling in the blanks > than romanticizing. Protagonists and antagonists are interchangeable because good and bad equals grey. Overcast is both friend and foil. Ignoring your child's cries epitomizes never looking back. Does laying down burdens equal desertion? How many mothers have ever dreamt of having just a decade to themselves. Sometimes a better life begins with abandonment.
I run fast and far but the memories always finish first—break the tape and celebrate with raised fists and and a history of lingering in the sky. I try to forget and forgive myself, but it's the voices I don't hear that haunt me the most. A family of ghosts rattling chains, taunting like guilt. They want to adopt me and promised a spot in the family Christmas photo and the guest bedroom. But the remnants of a man are only truly at home in the confines of his own casket. The story of my life is engraved on the back of a tarnished silver medal. I'm afraid I'll die with no one to see me standing upright on the podium. The distance between haunting and remembering can be measured by the amount of blood scavenging the clouds.
Daniel Romo is the author of When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014) and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). His poetry and photography can be found in The Los Angeles Review, Gargoyle, The Good Man Project, Yemassee, and elsewhere. He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and he is an Associate Poetry Editor at Backbone Press. He lives in Long Beach, CA and loves football, but he bleeds Dodger Blue… a lot... Talk poetry or sports with him at danielromo.net/.