poem four: if

You were the footnote to hours
of afternoon in high summer
when limp breezes bumped spongy
air through the screen window
nudging heat onto my skin.

You were the asterisk to my youth
(*deceased) whispered asides
never direct conversations
(*they’re too young to understand)
I wrote you a letter on an old computer,

in DOS, as if eight years hadn’t passed
since we sat in school playing Carmen
Sandiego and dreaming of not only global
but interdimensional travel. My refrain:
it’s not impossible, it’s not impossible

and you encouraged imagination, if
only we could back it up with equations.
And you, who are now more than twenty
years dead, now know better if the theories
were true, if the multiverse is separated

only by a curtain from one dimension
to the next. If we could jump and push
with our hands into the next life, into
another place, if we had a tesseract, if
my eyes by fourteen were not viewing

the world through a crust of salt, tears
that stopped flowing, giving myself up
to life. I let life live me, writing you
the long-ago letter, knowing you would tell
me not to give up the ghost.


This was an old prompt again – to use the words asterisk, refrain, curtain, salt, and hands in a poem. The combination of words led me to think about someone I am never quite able to write a decent poem about. He was my best friend in primary school, and committed suicide when we were still kids. The bit about the “tesseract” is a reference to the children’s sci fi / fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.


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