The following three poems were written by me in October 2021, and wound up landing me a finalist position in the Bennington Young Writers competition. The first two are somewhat autobiographical; the first combined experiences I had during the first few months of my job at the only bookstore left in Naples, FL; the last includes details of a conversation I had with my mom during my 16th December. The second is inspired by Craigslist's missed connections, and mimics its mobile format. I'm not totally into them anymore. The thought was there, it's here, but I'm above all I'm a shabby layman.
3:32 Organizing the shelves and catching sight of Winn-Dixie. Stabilizing a stack of cards in my hands: "Have you seen my dog?" I have not. "I'm losing my memory." He raises his voice and he's not angry at me. "I'm losing my memory, it's getting worse. Have you seen my dog?" I have not, but I want to. I think of my own. The dogs are just dogs; I’m not giving everything to poetry. I want to see the dog more than ever. I don't know how to respond to the man's anger, so I don't. I tell him where he can find books on dogs. He says "I already ordered one, my last name is the same as yours. My memory's getting worse, I can't tell it to you." His dog's name is Jimmy. Maybe Jimi. "He who supplants." The book title says something about taming, the author is someone English and we look at each other, bored. I take it out of its order slip. "My memory's not that good, what's the book called?" I tell him I don't remember either. A visual mind, he remembers the cover. He pays in cash and I have to ask him to take his change. He looks angry again, pauses for the receipt, and says his memory is getting worse. He's in his fifties. He knows what this all leads to. I shift my weight from one foot to another then set my hands on my side of the counter and shift onto those wrists. I think I admire him. He knows all about it. He isn't ignoring it. He's feeding it. That's probably dangerous. I'm still shifting my weight, dulled and thinking about the dog. Couldn't tell if he meant the book or if he really had a dog somewhere in the stacks. He was losing his memory, he hasn't lost it, so I decide there is nothing in the stacks and we are back to being a dog-free store. But, I prefer company; I ignore the idea the dog's not there. Coworker slides by, murmurs "did he say he had a dog? He didn't leave with one.." He has one but it's not here, he was after a book he ordered. "Bought online or held?" Held, he paid in cash. I had to remind him to take his change. You probably heard that too, he was going on about how he was losing his memory. "Yeah, happens often here. You live in a retirement town now, you'll get used to it. I had to help a full amnesiac, I sat him down in the cafe and fed him and his wife came and sobbed. She'd thought she'd lost him. Like I said, it happens often." His dog's name was Jimi. "Jimmy? That's the name of the full amnesiac. He was pretty, too." Formalities aside, now we're standing register by register. New Man walks up, I'm stabilizing order forms with my hands: "I'm looking for something to plagiarize." I suggest the autobiographies. A dog barks and I finally decide to take my medication. "Where are the autobiographies?" With a frown I say You already know they're across from comparative religion and the dog, we named him Jimmy. His body toward the shelf, this New Man says "I had a husband named Jimi. I'm sure the dog's better than him." I agree but don't say so, and get cut by another order form. I DOUBT YOU EVEN USE THIS SITE but I'm desperate, I have to try < prev _ next > reply remove flag Guy with red knuckles near the Shell station, I think it was 9:13pm (Tollgate) I'd just bought a cola and the vending machine sent it crashing, we both jumped at the noise and I asked if you were alright. Your eyes were red, I think you were high and crying but I want to know if I’m wrong. You had a leather jacket, scuffed to hell, and wore work boots I'm still jealous of. Yr wife-beater bore a Tom of Finland piece, and I was amazed by you. I was just amazed. Let me be corny, I don't get much out of this. You got on the bus headed for Homosassa and I went into the bathroom to laugh, and tried to vandalize with that same piece now borne on my brain. If you're reading this, please tell me what you said about the Book of Revelation. do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers She said 'Elegy,' not Eulogy I wonder to the man next to me why our boyhood was robbed from us. He cocks his head and fingers headphone wires and says 'I don't understand.' I say that sometimes a girl runs away from her family's house. I say that's a common image, you know that one. I say sometimes I am that house— ' weren't you that girl?' -and I was that girl, I watched myself leave but no boy could come back. The years were over and my family stayed too narrow. My walls could do little but bear the nails holding outdated photos, lined in neat rows, sagging on account of my cheap foundation. I don't let myself look at those photos I know I wouldn't love them. You didn't have a boyhood either. 'No, but I never call what I was a girl.' I think about the doors of the house that can be me. I think of the hallways and the pretty men that would rock on the balls of their heels, waiting for their neighbor to hang up the phone and tell them why there was a cow's grave out front and a trench out back. I think about how mom sweetly said you should name yourself Elegy when I was 16 and it was December. I think about how after I left the house she bought a gravestone and wrote her girl's name on it. I turned to the man and told him 'I stole my name from a grave. It was easy. Somehow he had the same last name, and somehow he died on the same year I've been seeing above my head since two-thousand-and-eighteen. I just hope mom plants the stone, because maybe a girl my inverse will do exactly the same.'