Meditation on Three Spaces
He is always looking out the peephole
at the hallway’s off-white walls and
hoping no one will be out there.
But at the same time, he is lonely,
the sameness—that moment,
a dead cat in a parking lot—
is like nothing left to understand,
a lump of coal bathed in the moon.
Someone could be coming
up the stairs and he would not know
until his head, then his chest and arms,
and then his legs stepped up to the landing,
and that would be the beginning.
The space between them then would be
denser than the sky that hangs
thin without reason to the earth,
as if it could be peeled like a rind
to get at the wet truth underneath.
The lost cosmonauts still float
into the giant pupil of space,
and must have died realizing that
they were only inside the things they saw,
not the things that mattered. They
will drift for a billion years of nowhere,
and even they will cease to be,
as on earth, all traces erased,
before and after photos showing
they were clearly never there.
Maybe no other place exists but
the woman who let him spread her out
like a canvas stretched beneath him.
Years ago, he thinks. He wanted her
to make something of him, as well,
an image, or a self, or an other,
even a blank page waiting for words,
so many words that he would not know
one from another or where one ended
and another began. The world is
an agony of waiting rooms, a promise
of stitches, and a healing now, a healing
this time, but not every time, so he knows
something is coming. A parking lot sits
wrapped in wire outside his window,
the wisp of oxygen like blood
flowing beneath his pear skin.
Footsteps. The punched gut of waiting.
He thinks, I am small now, a painting
of pinpricks seen from across the room.
Be monogamous with a paper doll,
buy a pair of ice skates, or build
a firefly’s home in a mason jar,
and you will see how possible
the world unmakes us. Always
her other cutout selves will yearn
to tear away, the skates will blade
each other to ribbons, and if
you forget to poke holes in the lid
the fires will all extinguish. You
are barely here, and what else
could she do? Days fall in shambles
of sameness, and the cotton candy is
spun with spiders. As if someone
wants you falling all over yourself,
leaving a trail of blood on the ice.
You are no dynamite lover, for sure,
and what you capture won’t last
unless you smash the jar. If these
are your first best intentions, you
might try gluing that jar back together,
cutting the strip of connective paper,
applying bandaids. Whatever you decide
will be wrong in most situations, and this
is all as useful to you as a map
of Constantinople. Smile and consider
the past that wasn’t what you wanted,
the present that wobbles at the touch
of your hand, the future that might
never come. The path that was chosen
by people you’ve never met. Petroleum
and pesticides, plastics and wars.
All you have is the firefly you made
yourself let go. That counts, right?
About the Poet
Todd Heldt’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Threepenny Review, Anti-, and many others. His first book of poetry, Card Tricks for the Starving, was widely ignored in 2009, and he has a novel available for your kindle here: goo.gl/luWVq. His first feature length film, Critical Nexus, was an official selection to the San Diego Black Film Festival in 2014. Todd was recently nominated to not win a Pushcart Prize again this year. He lives in Chicago with my wife and sons, and mostly feel ok.