They let you know on April Fool’s Day. Which is to say, they tell you what you already know, except they make it official. Which is to say, they say it out loud, with promise of a letter as follow-up. Which is to say, they have pressed start upon the countdown you already knew was ticking. Which is to say, there was nothing new to really report, or shout about, or to lean against a brick wall about, or take a long walk in the park cradling Lincoln’s tomb about, or tell your parents about. Which is to say, your parents already know. Which is to say, your friends at home kinda know. Which is to say,
your peers don’t really know. Which is to say, your new life is much like your old life. Which is to say, your new ending is not really at all like your old ending. Which is to say, you are relieved to know that things will go on for what you’ve helped to build, but it will be different. Which is to say you are in a motel bathroom in Bloomington, Indiana, just the weekend before with all of the same truths, peering over what will later be seen as the confirmation or culmination of months of speculation. Which is to say, you already knew. Which is to say, you were handed a letter in the Fall. Times New Roman. Twelve-point font. Default setting for Word. Which is to say, there was little in terms of customization or variation when it came to who, how, and why. Which is to say, you weren’t alone in receiving a letter. Who in plural. Multitudes. Nameless and only numbers to line items. Which is to say, you know several names personally. Which is to say friends, co-workers, and stories have a variety of tangles and interpretations to your narrative in and out of the workspace. Which is to say, a single letter fills in blanks but sends the same message, 12 points at a time. Which is to say, you already knew. Which is to say, they tell you what you already know, but don’t want to hear. Which is to say, bad news comes from familiar faces, with a singular tone, in a matching singular voice, soon to be a disharmonious chorus. You typically love how disparate voices collide and converge–the ragged edge harmony. Broken glass in honey. Which is to say, the teenage symphonies to God which populated AM radio meant so much more when they crashed against the brittle shoreline of failed expectations or emptied into a delta of foaming against in a Memphis studio, late into a 70s you were born in but not born into. Which is to say, you inherited the unbalanced harmonies of broken-hearted-beautiful-loser-boys in crashed cars or overdosed cult statuses. Which is to say, you embraced the wrong idols, backed the ponies no longer seen as longshots. Which is to say, you wrote because you didn’t want to go quietly into the suburban night. Which is to say, you have something to add or offer, but didn’t ever consider the recipient, or the who, how, and why. The who in plural. Multitudes. Nameless only to those not paying attention. You have always paid attention. It’s the detail you embrace. The footnotes in the floodlights. Which is to say, the shadow. Which is to say, what has been cast into the variable of shade. You are not fooled by the blinding white. Which is to say, you’re afraid of the dark. You are trying to count the toothpicks in a silver dispenser sitting on the countertop of a nameless dinner. You will always return to the familiar in your writing. It’s what keeps the words flowing through the white noise. It’s what keeps the white from overwhelming you. Which is to say you are always crowding the margins with a full Justify. You choose your fonts better than your words sometimes. At dinner with friends, you wrap your fingers around a pint glass and stare into the thick foamy depth of a microbrewed oatmeal stout. You could find breath here, which is to say, you know the syncopation of a haiku would carry this moment inside you and let it be lifted out onto the page with a revisionist grace to better foster a shared nod with the nameless faceless scrolling through lines and line breaks. Ice water and hummus/everyone/says goodbye. Which is to say, when you received your letter last Fall, the decision had a name attached to it, but its authors were as equally nameless to you, hours away from a place you’ve only been on paper. When it comes to rungs of a ladder, the bottom only knows it’s the bottom based its view of the ground. Which is to say, how far you fall is directly proportional to how high you climb. You and your supervisors and co-workers stood downwind from tough choices and hard calls. You can call them tough choices or hard calls to make because distance provides perspective. Time will fill in the gaps. Which is to say, you are a relative blip in the timeline of another’s career. You hear how lives began and ended in the same office spaces or buildings which now are being quietly considered for property and real estate value. Which is to say, you know how possessions are divided up after a fallout. Which is to say, a separation–even between business partners–still leaves emotional scars. Which is to say, there are more faces and names who will consider the floodlights from the shade but never understand the nature of blinding. Which is to say, they will blame the dark for darkness and never chase anything but that which defines their shadow. Which is to say, you are fine with being afraid of the dark. Which is to say you knowingly commit to the shaky allegory without knowing who will chase after you with equal amounts of blind faith. You are up earlier than normal. Which is to say you are among the sleepless, nameless multitude. Which is to say, you can’t sleep because you keep dreaming of ladders and floorboards and how you’ve never been to Memphis. You watch Otis Redding Live at Monterey Pop, and consider how breath is captured on film. Which is to say, there is a haiku hidden in the chords of this song. The camera closes in on him long enough to cast his profile into memory–the spotlight fills in around him, which is to say you are a witness to an eclipse. Which is to say, you understand the potential held in such space. You will go to work this week with an endpoint to this desk life standing in profile. Which is to say, you are relieved to know that things will go on for what you’ve helped to build, but it will be different. Which is to say, you understand the potential held in such space.
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, New South, and Smartish Pace. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.