Figures

A candle-lit dinner broken up by the cops.
Another long weekend at Grandma’s.
I couldn’t read the foreshadows
anymore than tea leaves:

a garbage bag of broken glass
torn open in the driveway,
a yellow letter pinched in the screen door
you ignored. We watched cartoons
you hated. You didn’t yell
when I dropped the popcorn.
For months the houseplants went unwatered.
The dog slipped out of his collar.

He would come at night in gym shorts and flip-flops
while I worked on a secondhand puzzle,
listening through the ducts to cards shuffle
between hands. Here I learned
the power of holding secrets,
the luck of the draw, addicted to
imagining how it would look
without the pieces missing.

I saw him one day
nosing through trash on the shoulder,
but you insisted it couldn’t be,
not even canceling your cruise control.
He’d been a footed bill
written off, a friendly favor you savored
regretting. I looked forward to the pawn broker’s
buffet of jewelry junk
every week before the grocery,
the yard sale when you sold
his dusty action figures
on our unmown lawn. That summer

I tracked him through a sea of cornstalks
until our footprints looked the same.
I know he glimpsed me through the blades of leaves,
from every photo on every milk carton,
tacked to lamp posts, collaged in bulletins
doubly lost. I kept an empty peg
to hang his jacket and hat, you an eye
open in the back of your head,
a loaded bullet bedside.

His apartment was a stone
I cried when you danced drunk on
at the cemetery, his legacy greasy
overalls dumped in a burn barrel.
In the end, I couldn’t pull
all your needles from his voodoo doll.
You were blind, but I knew his kind
monster, who pulled me under the bed
into a reckless world
ice cream colored.

Featured art: Suspense by János Kujbus

Image used with permission from the artist.