Jordan Pemberton

Winner of the 2012 Boulevard
Poetry Contest for Emerging Writers

Route 1490 to 1489 to 1484

I never fell asleep.
Six hours trying to read the clock
an inch beyond my vision;
in your arms, you in my arms,
wondering if it was time to leave.
We caught the bus at 2:35,
and on the way out a couple arrived
drunk, giving us directions, advice,
their drinks which we left on the lobby mantel
graced with wicker reindeer.

I almost feel asleep on the bus.
I asked you to take me to Wyoming,
Iceland. I asked you to marry me.
Stopped asking. Tried sleeping.
I asked if you’d stay with me another night.
The sun rose as we crossed the bridge.
Brilliance bounced off the boats, the banks,
the ice in the water, the rails, the gulls.
I brushed my teeth in the bathroom
holding the handicap bar.

That night I slept alone —
double twin, 40 dollars —
and woke to the strangeness of my own breath
solitary in a silent room.
Outside the entire world covered in snow,
the trees heavy, the sky full.
I pressed my thighs to the radiator,
I pressed my face to the pane.
I breathed ghosts on the frigid glass,
and wondered if you were awake.

The things that invade the house

Bats in through the crack
between the wall and the roof,
into my room to fling themselves
about the space above my bed.
Mice nestled in the fiberglass,
forming pockets for their tiny bodies,
and at night I hear them holding counsel.
I see them seated on the toaster,
on the bread box, the baseboard, cans
of beans, the cupboards, cups, dry wine bottles.
Raccoons, capable of self-inflation
and deflation slip themselves
down the chimney. Or, they come
in through the cat door,
eat the toast left on the counter,
paw the butter and wash their fingers
in my tea. Take only the red M&Ms.
There was a skunk under the porch
but he was killed and replaced by a possum.
There are dead things the cat brings in.
There are the things she brings in
not quite dead. And there was something
trapped inside the bathroom wall,
frantically clawing from behind the lath.
Earwigs, cavehoppers, crickets, ants,
hornets, spiders, ladybeetles
who mass and stink and die and burn
in the bedroom lamp.
Moth maggots mistaken for rice.
Lightning bugs caught in cups,
in jars, in clammy clasped hands.
Skittish strays caught with milk and meat,
wrapped in our arms and in our sweaters,
forced into love and home and shots,
castration and domestic life.
The old man who refused to leave
when the house was bought.
Neighborhood toddlers, diapered and mute;
a girl under the dining room table,
a boy seated at the piano,
a baby in the front hedge.
Baby birds who pass in boxes
because we don’t know how to feed them.

Things Gone

I’ve lost my keys, my contacts, once
a pair of underwear left in a car. I
haven’t lost my virginity, too shy, too scared,
I can’t believe people are trustable and without
reasons to avoid. My sense of direction has improved but still
I get lost in my hometown. Homesickness four years lost.

The ability to recite prayers lost.
First word, first kiss, first try tire swing swearing, one
bad word escaping after another. Second kiss. Still
I lose confidence, judgment, lose my body while drinking. I
blushed the first time I swore at my mom, but my brother is without
a first, just an always, while I was always afraid.

I saw death in a cornfield driving through Bridgewater, terrified,
him with his scythe in the morning fog. I’ve lost
two cousins, one uncle unknown, great-grandparents lacking
dermal pigment. I lose memories, names, dates and words; once
I forgot my mother’s face, studied her closely when she returned. I
spent ten years nearly blind and still

I’m without vision. Still don’t know how to swim, still
afraid of water. My father was also land bound and scared
but he was the one to try and teach me.
Head dunked under all I could see were the 29 lost
aboard the Fitzgerald, 29 cold, wet faces in Superior. One
of our cats drowned when I was nine, and I found him frozen lifeless.

My tongue froze to ice cubes, a knife, the neighbors’ flagless
flagpole. I worried I’d bite it off in my sleep, still
I wake with teeth marks, scratches, bruises and once
a black eye. A pinched nerve, which caused me to fear
my leg, numb for six weeks, would lose
itself, make me forget it was mine.

He’s lost height, weight, sight, sound, mind, memory, body and blood. I
can’t overcome my fear of dying. Legless,
broken hands, one eye, he’s lost
things to look at, tactility, and still he feels his missing limbs. I’m still
afraid of open spaces, empty spaces, being left in grocery stores, afraid
I’ll see the devil in mirrors. Afraid I’m only

temporal flesh. Once my feet were small enough to lose my boots
running through snow. Still, silent, heartless snow. Snow punctured,
              up to my knees. Boots
retrieved by hopping backwards, through the holes, backwards.