You get to work early.

You get to work early,
pull up into the school’s empty parking lot.
Three street lamps shine their pale glow onto dark asphalt.
The sun hides
behind some blue-black clouds
behind an oft-forgotten portable.

Your car eases into the same spot you always park in:
five east of the planter with the sword ferns.
Its door makes a soft sound as you open it;
it sounds like how you feel when you stretch your quad after a jog.

You walk across the lot, travel mug of coffee in hand.
Crow caws echo off the brick facade of the school,
a faint twee from a tree behind you.
You stop, stand in the middle of the asphalt sea.
Late October.
It’s cold— not heavy-jacket cold, but hug-your-ribs cold.

After a minute or so, you start walking again.
You get out your key, slip it in the lock like a dagger into your victim’s back. 
You think about how improbable it would have been 
to actually pass the stealth check.
You smile, shake your head, go inside.

the girl who lives in your mom’s house

the girl who lives in your mom’s house
cries inside the bedroom walls
when she thinks no one else is there.

the girl who lives in your mom’s house
tosses and turns at night,
awoken by the slightest sound in the dark.

the girl who lives in your mom’s house
laughs at jokes she’s too young for
but was forced to understand anyway.

the girl who lives in your mom’s house
stares into the bathroom mirror,
not recognizing who she sees.

the girl who lives in your mom’s house 
walks from room to room
looking for you.

dragging a mattress

wake up to bleary shadows.
drag a mattress across the bedroom.
wedge it through the threshold.
lay it down on the kitchen floor while coffee brews.
move to the couch when it’s ready.
tell myself to stay awake.
the mattress thrown askew at the edge of the rug.
a rope leading from its corner to my ankle,
layered knots my fingers can’t maneuver.
take a sip.

balance the mattress on my back with my backpack.
fit it in the trunk of my car.
close the door and walk around—
the rope phases through the frame.
lines blend with the headlights’ glow.
the asphalt, visual white noise.
turn the stereo up.
stay awake.

drag the mattress up two flights of stairs.
hide it under my desk.
nudge the corner in when coworkers come by to talk about weekend plans.
hold firm as it pushes back.

a river drone as I drag its edge across the parking lot.
drive off without putting it in the car.
it bounces on the road, thrashes in the wind.
unharmed in the driveway.

lean it against the coffee table while I eat dinner.
scroll through twitter on my phone.
a snake’s tail coils around my forearm, constricts.
sigh, flick my thumb, take another bite.

Future Versions of You

I saw a version of you
on a cave tour in South Dakota.
Three kids, all with your red hair.
A husband with a circle beard.
An accent from a place you would have stayed closeted.
While ascending 300 steps from our tour’s destination,
you joked about not needing a Stairmaster
if you just lived above a cave.

I saw a version of you
in a national park gift shop.
Round, thin-rimmed glasses.
Two older people with you,
maybe members of your extended family
or the people who took you in.
A purple dress with neon-green bats
indicative of a family that let you be different.

I saw a version of you
at an overlook above some badlands.
You were with a photographer,
a graduation photoshoot.
A shirt from an 80s band
under a cardigan two sizes too big.
A dandelion twirled between your fingers.
You looked like you.
You looked happy.

The forest fire outside our house

I lie in bed and turn my head
to see your face illuminated by
the forest fire outside our house.

I ask if you need anything at the store,
since I plan on going after work tomorrow
to get some bread and apples.

You blink a few times, shake your head,
say you’re not sure, too tired to think,
but will tell me if you think of anything.

I kiss you goodnight, tell my phone
to close the curtains, block the growing light from
the forest fire outside our house.

Sunrise at Bryce Canyon

You're on the edge of a plateau overlooking a valley of hoodoos
dusted with remnants of yesterday's snowfall.
Predawn light is faint, cold; the air shivers in short gusts of wind.

In a century, the platform your feet are on will not be there,
eroded by air and water down the cliff face's arches
like frames of a cathedral's stained glass windows.

You live your life like nothing happened.

After Gifts of the Crow, by John Marzluff and Tony Angell.

I cannot forget. 

Whenever I walk by a blue Camry,
your voice replays in my head —
each hoarse syllable.
I see your face in
every cedar branch,
every streetlamp aura.

I cannot forget.

I’ve tried waiting years,
traveling as far as I can
from you —
but the past always comes back
like the tide on the shore.

I cannot forget.

I want to scream
every well-practiced retort
I’ve bottled up —
but they all come out as
one guttural shout.

I cannot forget.