You arrive close to ten in the evening, dropped off by a train from a car from a car, missing your scarf, father didn't feed you and his new daughter's dog has eaten your toothbrush but still, you are in Manhattan during winter, during an ornament festival, among sparkling sculptures and warm yellow tents, shop keepers urge you to purchase twenty-two dollar star balloons, and why compromise? No one listens when your hands are empty.
Half-asleep on the train, your mind splits between sewer rats and the sea, for would it not be raw December magic if all that dark subway space were filled with king crabs and grey squid, those fish with hidden teeth luring you into the subway-grates-turned-sand, tunnel-turned-trench, the conductor is an eel. Emerging on Broadway, you are no longer underwater, just hungry with only enough cash for a croissant that you wind up giving away. This will not be the last time you are in Manhattan, you must make a promise to yourself to return when not lost, recover your mother's paintings, pocket your great grandmother's prayer beads and knit flowers, don't let she who never loved you stop you.
But you're upset anyway, scorned by the freedom of non-leaking rooftops, wishing your building had a green awning over the stained stoop, someone to know your name and open the door, stairs without holes, the doorbell can stay but the unlocked rooms must be emptied. Hate her teeth, hate her hands, hate her red nails and the way she rests against the gilded hallway mirror, why does she get to shrug at the entrance, why does she know the bodega cats by name, does she not remember late night talks and deli sandwiches stuffed in bras for warmth, the hot chocolate you had near Columbia, a filthy ledge overlooking Central Park, the hippo statues, the green noodles, the love, the Vix, the mothers. Eventually you are no one to her, nothing more than another stranger in the dollar store, she doesn't know how you longed to continue a decades-long tradition of being the family member who read their daughter's diaries, mother's cursive in French and Spanish, grandmother's letters, cousin's journals stuffed with secret money.
And what of it, Broadway, you want to take every pretzel-eating pigeon home, you want book releases the day of, you want pink elephant statues and the 99-cent store cat, you want what you want, you miss the New York of youth, it is no certain thing, you are in your father's house, cross-legged on the kitchen floor taking pictures of bowls of onions, tomatoes your stepmother grew, deep jars of green leaves, he laughs when you say someday you might want a yard. Does the floor remember your phone calls, your crying, do the walls recognize you are still an addicted spectacle, driving dozens of hours across the country for anyone who claims to care about your heart, and what a shock, this time he cooked a roast for you, there is even avocado fanned out like a green wing, there are seasoned mushrooms that are not the vegetables of your dreams but they will do, there is a three-month-late birthday cake, buttercream frosting, at breakfast you beg to be fed more than once. The espresso makes you sick but you drink it anyway, sift through the kitchen at two-am to look for something to take, finding instead used spoons and cereal bars in a half-sealed dollhouse, no one gives you toothpaste, no one checks when you, eldest daughter, are sick in the night, presented with two options for sleeping, either a haunted cloth-covered couch in the music room or a couch that is made of twisted lawn chair plastic painted blue.
When at last you arrive at your destination you must clean the house. Hide your identity in tinfoil, hide turkey subs in your coat, take photos of the mist-filled lawn as if to say, yes you returned, but at what cost, but you're still alive, but are you still, but are you listening, but are you absolutely sure you will protect yourself this time.
To Fortify the Ingredients
|don't want to tell you how I feel
|I just want to talk about the eels
|the truffle of my heart
|the table of contents protecting me from crying
how come you get to see the otters, does anyone know how to tell the truth, my confession is a loose blown bottle cap on a brave blue turtle, maybe someday I'll be able to tell you but for now I'm aching with the unspoken, I'm giving secrets to sea urchins, I will try to remember your shape.
I will write you poems about an ocean in the gymnasium and how the students all laughed when they saw the fish, and they cried at the whale, and anemone were red and everyone had their hearts.
I don't want to write about the collage, how personal it was to me, how personal it still is. This is more than I can handle, I only remember your faded shape because I'm incapable of letting go, I want to know if you remember how I lay on my stomach as we glued magazine cutouts to notebook pages, you at your desk, a thousand miles away, telling me it felt like we were in the same room. I don't remember if I still love you, or if I'm afraid of the feeling of loss, do you want to go back to the pit of the sea? We can stand at the edges and point, laugh as seals morph bubbles, contemplate how long we can sustain the coral, its hue is red, its hue is green, somewhere I see amber and cruise-surf frills, honey bun coils, I am leftover, I am not able to remember you because all I see is grief.
you're off somewhere, fully alive and divine, I want this to reach you, I want the truth to break down your walls in the middle of the night, I want to know if you remember sneaking into my room real late, I made the mistake of telling you to come back again, because what do I know? Well, I know now not to ask for extra love, it's only going to push you away, can't ask for any adoration, can't have choice, can't have books, no songs, nor hands, that don't remind me of you.
I am gone of strength, tired of the mind, unsure of devotion, this is not the worst, I want to keep hiding from you, look away,
|chocolate shaped like hearts
|cartons of eggs in the noon-goo sun
|the world 'vulnerable'
|the shape of two hands cutting through the air
|glittering shark ornaments
|butter in a pan
|gorge is gorgeous
|jumping into the lake
|I wasn't there
|I should have pocketed the pebbles you touched and given them to the elk-horn,
did we make it?
(she/her) is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. She is pursuing a PhD in creative writing at Illinois State University. Her work has appeared in Overheard Lit Mag
and Cypress Press
. She received an Author Fellowship from Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing in June, 2021. Instagram: @PensivePanini
, Twitter: @SamAnneMoe