p. 162

The car rattles underneath me. Wedged between a dark woven seat belt and the child seat to my right. Plastic presses into flesh with the lust of Draculean fangs grown yellow from thirst.

Streaks of rain splatter across my window like comets across the stars. A meteor plows through, a cavalry leaving wet steps behind it amid the crosshatch of rain marks.

Gregory Maguire’s Lost lies open in my lap. I’m reading the fictional account of a writer recounting her own fiction, the embedded character referencing literature three layers of lies deep.

I spin lies easily. Fiction is the art of convincing the unbelieving to believe the unbelievable.

Maybe I’m another fiction. Maybe I’m just another character, four layers deep, and you’re reading my story.


Line Items

I didn’t plan to check my bag
but by the time I reached the gate
and waited for boarding to begin
first priority and then first class
then zone two and three and four
by the time I dug out my ticket
from my backpack, held my passport
between my forefinger and thumb
my carryon gripped as firmly
as a child at my side, by the time
the attended greeted me with a smile
and scanned my ticket
there was no more overhead space
on the plane today, their apologies
for the inconvenience
would you please step this way
for a moment while we print the label
and weave it in and around the handle
and hand you your receipt
please take your seat, your luggage
will be waiting for you
at your final destination
it will be waiting, like you are waiting
to board the plane
to take off, to land, to taxi and unload
to walk along that long hallway to customs
and stand in that long line
between a mother and her crying children
between an elderly man who smells
of cheap cigars, his breath like alcohol
and not the rich kind either, between
teenage girls on cell phones
and boys staring at large breasts
waiting for the man in uniform
to stamp your entry and nod to you
go on, proceed through security
past duty-free gift shops and restrooms
finally to baggage claim, conveyor belts
long since turned cold, your bags
sprawled out and waiting, waiting
as you were to leave, to say hello
to be whole once again.

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Rings of Power

For HD.

After we exchanged rings I realized how afraid I was to wear it. What if it slipped off and I didn’t notice and lost it forever? What if someone saw it glinting like platinum in the moonlight and tried to steal it? What if they succeeded? I tugged it unconsciously, spun it constantly, couldn’t stop looking at my hand, just to see it was there, even while I felt it.

On the subway, smiling at each other, we tapped our rings together and he said, “They’re like rings of power,” and I laughed, thinking back to Saturday mornings with my eyes against the TV while my five friends chanted, “As our powers combine,” and the theme song to Captain Planet began playing. “They are,” I agreed, and grinning, he added, “Just so long as they don’t turn us into Nazgûl.” And have I told you before that Tolkien is my literary idol? Have I told you before I dream of writing a world like his? Have I told you before there could have been no better way to end our engagement than those softly spoken words as we hurtled under the earth?

Now I wish they were Rings of Power. I wish I could spin it on my desk, a white light engulfing its silver surface, and be able to talk with my love as if he were in the room with me. I wish I could tap it three times on the door and open it to step inside his room. I wish all I’d need to do is put it on to teleport beside him and take it off to come back home.

But it’s only a ring. A silver band with imperfections just like mine. I can’t appear beside him at will. I can’t whisper here and he’ll hear me there. It’s only a ring.

And I’m no ringwraith, no chosen one. I’m only a man.

Green Halls

Green. Fresh like new leaves or cut grass
absent of the vile jealousy and greed
that color money in my pocket. Green
like mint ice cream and watermelons
plump from the summer sun. Green
welcomes me as we enter past the mirror door
faceted of my reflection, barred in brass
flanked by tiles below and an alter above:
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