Best Worst Year: Episode 66 (Or, Nighttime)

Fingers interlock, tumblers spin in an impatient flutter or fumble. Soft descent, a slow graceful swan dive off a summer dock bathed in stars and fireflies. Arms follow hands’ leads, glide against her, closing a loop like a clasp on a necklace. Her ribs rise beneath you. Slight shudder. The breeze passing through black locusts in the backyard sound like ocean, turns patio into island. Her skin pours warm water over the bare parts of you where contact means touch means depth means connection. Moguling tremble–like a stylus passing over a Motown 45. Her neck has taken sunset and soaked her skin with a blood-rushed blush. You close whatever distance remains.

The necklace was almost an afterthought. You would try to bridge distance with physical reminders–either a promise or a sign that what you bring back is never as important is what you always carried with you. The wood would stain with her neck. Some nights it would be the last thing she removed.

When you found this simple wooden jewel, Florida in Autumn was taking on smoke. Some Sarasota market a stone’s throw from A. Parker’s Book Bazaar. The bookstore smelled like cheap cigars and spilt rum. You wrapped the necklace around a paperback copy of Le Petit Prince. Time was burning a pinhole in your breast pocket. Some promises barely survive the thread they’re bound with–some promises were never meant to be more than that which is worn and then removed. Eventually you would trade geographies, although this would be a second hand story passed between paper distances. Fold a map over in a notebook, turn a page to dust–that’s the outline of what once was and now is only known in the profile of its absence.

She gave you island blood in rosewood crucifix. You carry your family back to the States with you. Words unlock in a second you–possessed in the nameless history of countless faces woven into your skin. You turned her rosary into ink and wrote her a poem. She probably never will read it.

There were ballerina bodies and back seats. Porcelain grace features with a long raven braid. She let her hair down in June and it turned to dead leaves with your silence. She still floats, like a question mark. You had the answer all along and leaned against the passenger door. The car overlooked a manmade lake. You parked in the shadow of PP&L cooling towers–its warning beacon replacing Polaris as the brightest star in the sky. You were all eyes and no voice. Jeff Buckley would drown a year or so later in the Wolf River Harbor, clutched in the jaws of the Mississippi. If you wish hard enough, some songs just vanish from memory.

You can’t help but look lost sometimes. Occasionally it’s to your benefit. Distraction has its own gravity. You could be described as aloof. You are just focused. What passes as absent minded is just myopic. Head down, maneuvering through the occupied days that pushes pins into paper, holds up a sign for those who are really looking. You wish it were more of a metaphor–it’s not. You are wandering through some college campus with posters and invitations.

The Radio Shack sign is not the moon. TheLightning Seeds on the radio. You look to close the distance between you and her with open eyes. Pure and simple every time.

You are standing at the gate of theKnoebels grand carousel. The amusement park is July sticky and mosquitoes have taken their fill behind your ear. The brass ring is a gimmick. Earlier some kid fell off a horse when reach, ambition, and gravity were filed down to a fine point by night’s canopy. You tried to capture her in a poem but words were a tarnish of cheap metal when it came to her, here, and this. The hand opens and you’ve held on to nothing.

She said you touched her face like you were trying to remember it. You used to worry about forgetting. Closed your fist around an hour or a minute and couldn’t help but feel light slip through your clench. Nails into palm. Nothing here, under Orion’s watchful constellation, feels so desperate. You are anything but trying to remember. You are a stylus.


Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including The North American Review, [PANK] Magazine, Five Quarterly, and The Minnesota Review. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.


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