In the violence of your jaw, I found myself
again as your hack-haired friend mumbled
“forgiveness” when “eternity” was so obvious —
eternity we have, to count the broken gestures
of a night, the loving of a dull orange light
lapping over us from a cheap plastic globe
at the wrong moment. I confessed I could not
measure the ebbing of a glance, the tumbling
of a voice, as the orange glow caught the pride
of old wood lacquered smooth so any finger can
trace a splash of spilt whiskey into any name
the memory gives as the music closes down.
On some other night a woman waved and said,
“I saw you standing on the bridge today, staring
over the edge and down into the water. I was scared
you were going to jump, right then as I watched.
I would’ve pulled over but I was going the other way.”
For maybe two minutes, I’d stopped to watch gulls
swarming above the river, dozens of them,
just a few yards from the bridge. They screamed
down to the water, dove in turn, completely
submerging themselves, swimming through
the stained water for something I could not see,
their beaks empty when they surfaced, feathers
already dry. They’d hover there briefly, cry out
to the river again, search it, before diving in
once more over and over. Two birds crashed
into each other, veered away, continued on.
There have been days and then days, as there will
be days, days that strangers mark to remind us
there were days, and it is true they were there
for the ticking of the tock, the taking of shots,
the two-page apology notes and dirty cocks,
all the recycled notions the years have given.
Even if we thought our fate relies on the direction
of others, it is simply impossible to contemplate
suicide while watching birds swim beneath
you, and a broken wrist cannot prove it’s worse
than a sore throat, a dented knee, the blistered foot
we all walk on until every step is an old lover’s
heartbeat, laugher at threadbare tales dubbed
epics, birds singing through a hangover dawn,
roommates brewing coffee, tapping on doors.
When we met for lunch in the cafeteria,
you asked me to bring a copy of Pride
and Prejudice bookmarked with a white
rose so you could identify me even though
you knew exactly who I was all along.
I fell asleep drinking table wine in bed and
left myself an illiterate note on the nightstand
that read in the morning you must write her
letters in the morning I wrote you letters of birds
crashing into one another as I wrote them half
asleep in the morning as birds swam through water.
Darien Cavanaugh received his MFA from the University of South Carolina. His fiction and poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Juked, Sou'wester, The Dos Passos Review, Memoir (and), The Minnetonka Review, The Blue Collar Review, Struggle, Pank, Main Street Rag, The James Dickey Newsletter, Megaera, The Pickwick Press, Gertrude, I-70 Review, Kakalak, The Gap-Toothed Madness, The Blue Earth Review, and The San Pedro River Review. He lives in Columbia and works at The Whig.
© 2014 Darien Cavanaugh