Poetry

I Need You to Stay

We drove home late from the concert–

brother and sister

–into a dark quiet rippled only by streetlights

and our excited talk.

 

Half-past midnight, you strongly contended

one of the songs was a cry to God,

but I felt you’d overthought the lyrics.

 

To me, the words

referred to nothing

more than a girlfriend

 

–both of us fixating,

I realize now,

on whatever ideas

felt furthest away at the time.

Poetry

One of Our Walks

We were on one of our walks, Alex

you and me.

 

I was 19 and you were 7

and neither of us quite belonged.

You were my foster brother and the full adoption

wouldn’t happen until September.

 

I was schoolless

for the first time in thirteen years,

biding my time till August

when I could be a freshman again,

and grades would start telling me

how life was going.

 

Both of us in the place

between belonging and not.

Just moving in opposite directions.

 

But we were on our walk

and you asked me

with your now-trademark directness

why I had to leave.

 

And before I could answer,

you offered

an explanation of your own:

“Because only Charlie Brown don’t grow old?”

Poetry

A Standoff in the Shop of my Employ

Yesterday, a young man on a date

approached the register and asked,

“What are these?”

and I said,

“Cookies,”

because they were cookies,

but that was only partly true.

 

“Cookie sandwiches,”

I elaborated,

“They’re gluten-free.”

I knew that because I worked there,

not because of the disease that makes me know things.

 

“Oh,

he scoffed, stepping back from the counter just a hair,

“so they’re probably terrible.”

He waved his hand over the cookies,

denouncing this title upon them.

 

“They’re actually pretty delicious,”

said I in the cookies’ defence, still smiling.

I had eaten several

over the course

of my time working there–

cream-centered

chocolate chip

cookie sandwiches,

somehow delicious while

simultaneously

free of dairy, soy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, and GLUTEN (!),

that toxic bane!

that demon in the dough!

that kraken of the cracker

that had plagued me six years hence!

 

The standoff could have ended there,

with a recommendation for cookies,

except the man parried.

 

“But what IS gluten?”

he asked, adjusting his stance,

stepping forward again.

“Can you tell me that?”

 

He asked, “Can you tell me that?”

as though this knowledge

lay beyond the realm of human thought,

as if gluten were a sentiment

only vaguely considered

toward breadlike effects,

with no real physical existence.

 

“Can you tell me that?” he asked.

 

And I could, because of the disease that makes me know things.

 

And I did.

Flawlessly,

fatally,

without hesitation.

 

“Yeah!”

I gladly replied.

“It’s a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley!”

 

“Oh,” he said,

deflating a little,

“Damn.

I didn’t think anyone actually knew that.”

 

There are few victories won

for those

with intestinal maladies

–most of them involve staying alive,

and eating food

that tastes semi-normal.

 

But every now and then,

you can make a dude look dumb

in front of his girlfriend.