Tim Sackton CC
the art of the deal
my mother calls to tell me she just
wants me to be happy and I don’t tell her
but I don’t think I can.
best I can do is wake up again tomorrow. sad maybe, in a puddle of my own sweat maybe, feverish and loopy probably. but alive.
I wish I could be a scientist and bottle up happiness in the same jars you might preserve strawberry jam in.
wish I could pull the happy clouds out of the sky and put them in a tupperware for you to keep in the fridge.
even if you forget about it.
even if it just sits there on the bottom shelf and molds for weeks.
but the best I can do is study the pigeons in the park to see how they do it.
if I give you a little of my skin, can I have your arms for the night?
and if I turn around to look back at everything we lost, can I keep you,
can I keep walking on these legs whether they’re moored on
ocean jetties or pillars of salt?
I killed a cactus last year but I promise not to
kill you. we will walk the line between
dehydration and overwatering together.
we take in stray dogs. we want to say we take them in for love.
but secretly we do it in the hopes that
in the next world, the stray dogs will see it fit to take us in.
armpit deep and only sinking lower
I am in love with you.
as a child I stood in the shallow end of a hotel swimming pool somewhere in florida, and the water wouldn’t rush in. I would have to go to it.
you made me come to you the same way. you said “here I am, I am here. you can see me. there is nothing I can say to change your mind about whatever it is you’re going to do.”
and I nodded dumbly, my chubby little kid’s arms bobbing like they did in floaties. and I took a step. and I took a step.
and busted the water open like your blunt force trauma. I couldn’t help feeling I created the concussion you received when your head hit the bottom of the deep end. I couldn’t help feeling like I put it all there.
you held me in the bathtub, in our day clothes, wool and cotton soaking wet, those dirty clumps of laundry. and you said “did you know that it’s entirely possible to drown in two feet of water? you could even drown on dry land. the only thing you need to do to drown is fill your lungs with water. that’s all. that’s all you have to do. that’s all.”
I could hear it in your voice that you wanted us to try. but I wanted a proper drowning, a recognizable one. I wanted you to give me an ocean or a lake. I would have taken your canals, your flash floods.
I wanted no gray areas. I wanted you, surrounding me. I wanted you like the arrows wanted Saint Sebastian like the knife wanted Marat or like the bullet wanted John Lennon. that is to say dead-eyed, emotionless. but that is not how I want you now.
now I want you like your ears and mouth wanted
to take back the blood that leaked from your brain
at the bottom of the deep end. now I want you like the drain wanted your hair, like the chlorine wanted your eyes, like the concrete wanted your scraped feet.
now I want you like every summer wanted your broken bones, wanted your sunburns, your cancerous growths. can you tell me that I caused this? I caused this. I could drown in two cubic inches of you. you could find a way to drown in a drained pool. every beautiful part of you. every last bit. everything incomprehensible, unrecognizable, the way no one has ever been able to describe the way drowning feels because when it happens to you, you always either end up dead or alone.
too much water holds you now. it's so much, it’s not enough.
dog sniff. dog jump bite growl snort. dog in the rain, running beside you. dog paws in the mud puddle. dog splash. dog.
dog used to be in the shelter. dog found somewhere in the streets of camden new jersey, choking on a rock he was trying to eat. to numb the gnawing pain in his stomach. dog has plenty to eat now but he still eats rocks anyway. a tribute to the ache that once was. dog lick. dog sniff. dog curled up under your arm. dog snore.
dog bad sometimes. dog very bad. dog chew. dog pee. dog bite.
dog always forgiven.
dog romp around the backyard. dog dig hole. dog sniff. dog knock you to the ground and lick your face off. dog running with you again, but this time in the sunlight.
Michelle Moroses is a writer and editor living in Boston, Massachusetts. She edits for The Emerson Review and has been published in Poets Reading the News and The Penn Review as well as others. She loves her dog, Fozzy, and going down Wikipedia rabbit holes.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.