Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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These days I wake up tired / after hours skimming sleep’s / surface like a hungry bird, waiting. / They say it’s a fact of growing older, / to lose the skill for sleep infants / and teenagers effortlessly have.
On my way home from school / with a gang of friends / I would see him outside / one of the bars or diners / near the Journal Square station: / my uncle, rasping the price / of a shine to the passing crowd
You never grew tired of watching her work. You loved the hum of the machine, the sawdust that stuck to her sleeve, and how she bent her head over the wood like something swan. You knew she was sharing something intimate with you. You were witnessing prayer.
We were warned not to complain — / plenty more temps they could call. / Warned, too, to avoid the break room / with its jailhouse camera / swiveling right outside the boss’s office, / his speakers playing only country.
I leave with my sunglasses on, waving my hand. Sometimes you call my name, your voice a taut string, and I think Michael might snap in half. But it’s strong — a tether.
In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
Life has always been as hard as the soles of my father’s feet. Like the callused hand my face melts into. He holds it like the cantaloupe before a fruit salad. Like life before America. Before it’s sliced, devoured, consumed.
My mother didn’t raise a thief, but by the time you round forty, you’re pretty much raising yourself. I scooped the package from its hiding place, then waved my free hand at the doorbell camera.
I want to help carry the burden when it is heaviest. The dying patients and their families need time with a compassionate stranger: someone they don’t have to expend their fragile energy to try to support or protect.
And I didn’t say there is no philosophy of life that covers this / I didn’t say how am I supposed to breathe when you stop