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Leigh Stein



Going to the airport, opalescent sky,

dawn dragging its feet through the river, I’m


thinking that anyone who says I’ll make it up to you


is a person aimed for future let-downs,

is a person who forgets anniversaries, but


I’ve forgiven worse. I’ve driven to Amarillo


in one day and one night, through St. Louis

and Cuba, Missouri, where an old Coke facade


hung like a stage prop above the gas station,


through Miami, Oklahoma, where there were birds

and cottonwoods and Do Not Drive Through Smoke


signs and we wondered what could be burning


along a highway with so few exits, but by then

we were half-asleep and so when I say birds


I am inventing them. I am a revisionist.


I am giving my life back to myself, only

better, brighter, faster. Everything happens


at dawn for a reason. At night I find myself


reaching for a light switch that isn’t there.

Or reaching for a song. Reaching for a shovel


so I can go back and plant magnolias


along I-44, give the girl in the passenger seat

a silk scarf for her hair, and unleash doves


above the road like wedding rice,


like a flag of surrender. This version

of events is just as true as any other.


Ask me when I’m older. Ask what I remember.





Going to the airport, braced for divorce,

usually I’m more anxious to arrive


than I am to leave but this time I am leaving


before the sun, calculating how far

away the airport is, and how fast this car


will go, and we’re talking about women,


the kinds of things that a woman will do, like

learn to use a Wet Vac in her widowhood


or cry over each song that comes on the radio,


just because this is a new year, just because this

was a hit from before, back when she was living


in the faraway and losing weight and thinking living


had become unrealistic, or unreasonable, or

at the very least untoward but right now


we’re talking and I’m not really listening,


I’m thinking about getting married and

who I’ll invite and how when my parents arrive


I’ll seat them on the same side of the aisle,


in neighboring chairs, and then I’ll tie

them together, like a mitzvah of my own


invention, and this is unlike vengeance, this is


reconciliation, this is how to say stay

to the lilies, to the string quartet,


to my faceless groom and all these vows.





Listening to you in your sleep, pretending

this is just as good as if I were asleep myself,


the tender evening behind us like a jet trail


that wants to be read as a cloud and it looks

like a tiger tonight. I’m pretending your arms


are your arms, which is to say I’m not


pretending they belong to someone else,

good for me, but I’m still not above keeping track


of the anniversaries of everything I’m brokenhearted


over and this goes for men, departures

and arrivals, weddings I was not invited to


for good reason, achievements of my enemies.


I’m thinking of rewriting history

so that instead of jealousy my major themes


are revenge and justice and I’m going to the airport


so that we can miss each other more,

because I want a future to look forward to,


another new year already, noisemakers


and dry champagne and songs I know

the words to and the way you looked at me


at the costume party, I want another chance


for second chances. I never make the same mistake

more than four or twelve times, but enough


about you, tell me more about you.


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