Because the river was reaching flood levels and you were less than landlocked. Because you could smell the rain in late fall. Because the leaves were dying all around you. Because the sky was so blue and your eyes were as full as the moon nowhere in the sky. Because you were building a fort around you consisting of books and tapes. Because you were operating under the cover of clouds and Merlot. Because there were children involved. Because you took in a stray. Because it was the grafting of us to you and we to I. Because you were never good with pronouns. Because you held all your consonants in the space between your teeth and tongue. Because you fell down the stairs a few weeks before. Because you read to them before bed. Because you took work home with you. Because your car became a couch. Because you were told there would be tears. Because you wouldn’t go so quietly into the letting go. Because you didn’t understand you were a cage and a cave. Because you were at fault and forgiven. Because you were blameless and never doubted. Because the stories you heard couldn’t be true. Because you listened to “Brilliant Disguise” at the kitchen table when no one else was home.
Why does water pool at the low spot of this parking lot? Why did we dance barefoot in a blizzard that first snow day? Why did we toss pennies off the overpass while we shared a bottle? Why did the pilot light never stay lit for us?
Because the vice-president of Sony Records was in love with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and wanted it to be contained on one compact disc. Because Jim Gordon had written a piano part which would be woven seamlessly into the coda of “Layla.” Because Jim Gordon would later kill his mother with a hammer. Because the CD wouldn’t last forever and indeed did have a shelf life. Because the jukebox at the old VFW was the last thing taken out of the building before it was left to rot along with the rest of this modern day ghost town. Because the last thing Willy DeVille wanted anyone to know was that Johnny Thunders died so alone–reduced to a pretzeled corpse due to rigor mortis and leukemia. Because no one ever heard of Blaze Foley and when he was gunned down in the street, chords and choruses spilled out of the bullethole. Because he wore a black hoodie and they were scared of him. Because it was not standard procedure but neither was taping police brutality in the age before YouTube and the internet. Because there is a quiet history of racism in Ferguson and it’s as invisible as a chalk outline. Because white shows up so well when you chalk pavement. Because they sent a mayor who championed anti-Latino legislation to Washington, D.C. all the way from Northeastern Pennsylvania. Because the only songs on the Waffle House jukebox off Rte. 276 near Greenville were written by a Nashville so un-Johnny Cash-like.
Why did you wait? Why did you promise an apology to fire? Why did you wake up with a taste for honey and gravel? Why is it called Giant’s Despair anyway?
Because you have made it a habit to chase your answer from the pages of dusty books. Because you were by yourself so many weekends growing up. Because beneath a threadbare excuse you were always cold to the touch. Because it was never funny to you. Because you were a comedian in a bottle. Because you heard strings and horns waltz between cars in a parking lot. Because you had a patient anger about you. Because you were skinned alive when they played the pronoun game. Because you were weaker, then. Because that first Weakerthans record told them so much about you when you couldn’t. Because when the water finally receded, there was an unmade bed in an empty house. Because you were all caught in the eye of a needle and the storm was so neatly stitched up inside of you. Because it was all loose ends and seams to undo. Because you taught them to double knot their laces–train through the tunnel. Because you forgot the words to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Why do we cradle days like these to our chests? Why are we just a jigsaw of conversations? Why does the water stand so still without turning to ice? Why is this a bottleless message sinking into saltwater?
Because the keylock tumbles, the numbers crunch, the needle lifts, the dial scans, the channel changes, the page turns. Because there is always a remainder when you long divide. Because you weather change. Because you are weathered. Because you are standing on opposite sides of a chasm and the water is rising to not quite meet you.
Because there is no river or flood anymore. Because there will always be songs for why.
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, Midwestern Gothic, and The Minnesota Review. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.