Volume 43 ~ 2021
          

Hope Anderson

 
 
 
 
 

Pollution

 

I told you they were stars—

the lights on the pond.

The city polluted everything,

but the apartments’ illuminations. 

Every night during the summer,

grass absorbed our laughter.

Wind listened to our secrets.

The night masked my tears.

I knew you were weak, fragile, dying.

 

We spent all summer together, 

but it wasn’t enough to heal you. 

When the autumn breeze drifted through the streets,

your life was gone. 

Those nights were too.

 

Nothing has changed in the city. 

The air is still heavy. 

The water has the same glow. 

Now I see street lamps as stars. 

That fog, our city, the sickness 

couldn’t suffocate your beauty. 

I Have Missed You

     When the sun was about to depart, I halted in front of a beaming sign. I stepped back, looked up, and read marquee words that would soon hold a story. It was nice to finally read a title other than Closed. Hopefully, we will open soon.

     I stood in disbelief and excitement. The world was allowing me to experience life again. 

     In front of me, someone swung open a door and released the overwhelming smell of happiness. My nostrils filled in joy and my mouth watered. I heard the hiss of a kettle and the buzz of a fountain machine.

     Breaking my eyes from the glowing entrance, I stepped into a world brimming with pops and snaps, nice to see yous, and how are yous. I let the noise consume me. I let the world see my teeth. 

     Then, I stepped forward and showed my mouth to a lady with a glossy cherry red shirt and faded charcoal pants. She exchanged my paper for paper and allowed me to see the dimples on her uncovered cheeks. 

     Almost skipping, I made my way to my next joy. A man behind a plastic shield twinned the lady with dimples. He looked away from me and mumbled when he asked questions. This man revealed no emotions to me, but instead, he helped me satisfy my sensories. I hugged his presents - a bowl of buttery delight, my favorite rainbow candy, and a large fizzing cup that is filled with everything that’s bad for you - and without dropping anything, I entered the drafty room. 

     I searched the sea of heads, I saw names that I could now associate with faces and heard sentences that no longer lagged. I looked until I found a woman waving her arms at me, and I quickly hurried over to her. As I sank down into the plush red seats, the lights faded to a low glow and my shivers settled in. 

     I watched as the world transformed before me. The audience and I giggled, screamed, jumped, and then cried, as we shared the rollercoaster experience. We all held our breath when the room faded to black, and sighed when the lights on the wall slowly brought the light back into the room. 

     For a moment, I sat staring at what had just ended. I watched the people leave with new lovers, sleeping children, and extra food. I heard their laughter and chatter fade out of the building. Then, slowly, I got up and exited into the night, taking a new story with me. 

Younger

Dear sweet child,

let yourself be young again.

 

Walk around with a blanket,

limbs barely holding on.

Push the stroller 

that holds a life by imagination. 

Sing with no care for pitch

and dance to your own tune. 

Laugh at your jokes

but never giggle at mine.

Be stubborn and weird.

Caring and kind. 

Don’t let the boys, the parents, the girls, the world

tell you who to be.

 

I want to teach you life again,

show you how to stay strong. 

 

Before you grew up,

you were carelessly yourself.

Where is your innocent face,

your sweet naivety?

You’ve lost your fat cheeks,

your beautiful spaced teeth, 

and some of your freckles.

Your heart used to be reckless;

made of caramel and butter.

Smooth and warm,

kind to all kinds. 

 

When you were younger

you didn’t care as much.

 

You are fragile now.

 

Unclenched 

 

     Our steps fall in sync as we stroll down the path that we have exhausted numerous times. However, this walk is not the same, this walk is painful. This air used to be filled with snorts and babbles. The path used to be decorated with chalk and blood when we would fall off our trikes. Now, I dig my nails into my palms, in hopes that my temptation to hold your hand will dissolve, but it doesn’t stop. I continue to watch our stride and notice that your hands are clenched like mine. I draw in a deep breath, about to finally break the heavy air, but you look at me and my breath stops. Somehow you manage to say so many things without even opening your mouth. 

     As children, our giggles used to fill the summer sky as we ate popsicles by the poolside. 

We seemed to share these words. 

     As kids, we didn’t care. The nights bore our loneliness, but the days held our fun. We shared every pain, every joy, and almost every secret.  

     I break away from your stare and let my fists squeeze harder. Unrelecutantly, I look at you again. I want you to finish telling our story, so we can search for the answer. Our loud silence continues. 

     When we took on middle school, you were my date to each dance, my recess buddy, and my bodyguard. We passed notes in class and skipped down the hallways together. 

      Walking with you now, I remember what it felt like to be safe. I think back to the day some boy told me that I was bigger than an elephant, and as my protector, you jumped down from the monkey bars and punched him in the face. The principal suspended you for a week, and I coincidently stayed home. I let you come over when my parents left. We laid in my living room watching Disney shows and stuffing our stomachs with popcorn. Those days of innocence and naivety were not prepared for high school. 

     I kick a rock down the beaten path and watch it bounce to a stop before I listen to your face again. Your brows raise. You long for my response. I have none. I feel defeated and sit down on the nearest bench. In the air, I hear a whisper. I close my eyes and let the breeze finish what we don’t say out loud. 

     Middle school ended quickly for us. Suddenly, we were walking through the doors of high school.

I open my eyes to meet yours which scream words into my soul.

     You found what you thought was love.

My eyes shout back.

     And you found a new school. 

Together we feel hurt and share the same sentence.

     You left me without saying a word.

     I turn away for a moment and then meet your deep blue again. Your gaze begs the question I have no answer for, What happened to us? I hope you see that my eyes are saying, God, I wish I knew! Finally, I let go of my breath and my head shouts:

     Maybe I made the mistake and that is why you ran away, but I believe we messed up a long time ago.

Searching your eyes, we almost say the words we never have. 

      If only we said three words as we ate our sugary ice or each time we slow danced through the night. Maybe then things could be different.

     I try to force out those three words now, but I can’t. I am afraid that there is too much to say. All I can do is unclench my fists, and so I do. You take my hand, and we let go of our regret.  

Not Me

 

I am the Prom Queen

of loneliness. A girl 

who hides her lack

of self-confidence

behind an imaginative ego 

and social life.

I hate

heels and makeup.

I am the graduate

of failure. An adult

who can’t balance

a checkbook or pay 

taxes and loans.

Someone lost 

in the sea of responsibility,

searching for fun.

I am the scholarship winner

of procrastination. A college freshman

without a car, who is in dire need 

of an interest or career path.

 

Everything I accomplish

I do not fit

the description of worthy.

My value doesn’t equate 

to applauding audiences’ praise.

Each achievement is not mine,

it belongs to someone better. 

To me, they feel 

plastic and wasteful. 

I am the deity of undeserving.