He Fell Off the Pier Inadvertently
Because he’d planned to get better
to study harder, to eat almonds and
yogurt to stay alive, to stop taking
pills that belong to other people.
And he promised his mom that he’d
wear his hair respectable, getting it
trimmed every two weeks, never
letting his neck get unruly. But
what women do to men, they did
to him. Marjorie couldn’t stop
thinking about and touching his
perfect black hair, adoring every
strand, opening her mouth to his
head like a lollipop when he’d let her.
Tabitha was plain, but she spoke
like sea sounds and he could close
his eyes forever as she washed him,
promised him peace. His mom
worshipped him, understood why
all women were jealous of her,
having known him since before his
life, knowing his entire body, how
every inch of it has changed. She
used to be able to fit his whole baby
feet into her mouth.
But he told Diana
that he wouldn’t be alive in four years,
that she should know how lucky she is
to be married, to have children, a home.
And then he said, You are a carnival and
Did you know that I was a blonde child? I
started going dark when I began to understand
what an hour meant. And you know me.
He collected ephemera that reminded
him of Diana: a spoon from a diner,
a postage stamp, the extra sheet of paper
found inside a wedding invitation, beads
and gummy bears; a thimble, a lighter
he stole from a man who’s about to
propose to his alcoholic girlfriend.
He took walks at three o’clock
in the morning and wrote songs
on his arms for her. For a bit,
he was happy; he’d been close enough
to know her eyes, to recreate them
in ink on his wall above his bed. It
took him two weeks to get the right
shape, but symmetry was never too
far from his skill set. It was getting
the right blue that troubled him--
he’d seen it in only one other place,
the veins in her arms, in his arms.
When he opened one up, the wall
caught what mattered most to his
mother, his red talent, his changing
skin. She said No, dear. You won’t
be able to get them right. She’ll never
understand you, be satisfied by you.
But he pressed himself to the wall,
to Diana’s eyes, using his hair
to wipe off the wrong red. He tried
calling her, he needed her good luck.
All he got was the weather and time.
He took the diner spoon from the box
and a rubber band he thought maybe
this was in her hair. Yes, she was here.
I’m going to get this right, Diana.
He took his neighbor’s umbrella from
her porch and walked in the cold, blue
drizzle. Maybe it’s the sea, maybe
that’s the right color.
About the author:
Amanda Cobb teaches English at West Virginia University in Morgantown, where she lives with her two children, Grace and Dashiell. She moonlights as a bartender at Gene's, her city's oldest beer garden, so please visit her on a Tuesday night--she would be delighted. Her poems and essays can be found in Arts & Letters, Verse, Pebble Lake Review, The Boiler Journal, and Tygerburning, among others.