Because the Color Is Half the Taste
it’s a shame to eat blackberries in the dark, but that’s exactly what I’m up to when a man startles down the street screaming, The fourth dimension is not time! He makes me feel stupid and it’s hard to sleep knowing so little about everything, so I enroll in a night class where I learn the universe is an arrow without end and it asks only one question: How dare you? I recite it in bed, How dare you? How dare you? But still I can’t find sleep. So I go out where winter is and roll around in the snow until a sharp rock meets the vulnerable plush of my belly. A little blood. Hunched over, I must look like I’m hiding something I don’t want to share. And I suppose that’s true—the sharp, the warm wet. The color is half the pain. Why would anyone else want to see? How dare they?
God Stops By
to show me how healthy He’s been. He’s sleeping more. He built his own gym. Mostly muscle now, He gives me the fat off his steak. I eat because He offers, not because I need—it’s hard to feel hungry when everything in this world tastes small and wrong, like rubber grapes or sun-boiled eggs. When I was small, I was certain that what was holy was mine—I caught moths in the garden, pressed their wings between my thickest book, and waited for new moths to sprout up and out of the pages. I ask God if He considers me a cracked seed of grace. He says, Yes, dear. I understand. It would be exhausting to lead a life with careful consideration for all things—stepping over anthills, saving lizards from pools. I mean, if I was God enough to be idolized, every statue would be a golden depiction of me riding a goose-drawn chariot, absentmindedly resting my shepherd’s scythe an inch away from their curved white throats. Before God leaves, He clears the table, pats my head, and presses two messages into my palms. In my left, You are the bridge. In my right, You are the dust.
Normal Everyday Creatures
I’m going to show you some photos— extreme close-ups of normal, everyday creatures. A patch of gray fur, half a yellow eye. When you guess each creature right, you guess each creature into being. Soon you’ll have enough to open a zoo, and people will visit because it’s not every day they get to see everyday creatures in cages. Oh, of course your zoo will have cages! Otherwise you’ve just got world around you and who’s going to pay for that? Your father? Actually, let’s not talk about fathers, they are boring and offer clumsy advice on toothpick drawbridges, on soothing saw-grass wounds, on wearing the same pair of underwear four days straight like the Boy Scouts. I was never a Boy Scout, though I did dream of pinewood derbies and being afraid of the forest. I might ask you one day to go camping, and if you have the desire to dance. Please, when we finish spinning, aim me toward the river. Once, while jumping from stone to stone, I slipped into the river and scared a snake from his underwater hiding place, and though he did not wisp his tongue at me, though he made no rude remarks about my bony feet or the house I was raised in, I wanted to harm him. I was frightened— I thought I knew where everything belonged. I do know the snake does not belong in these photos. It is not an everyday creature. I can tell you this because this is my game—I’m allowed to give hints. And if, for some reason, you don’t belong in this space with me, getting fingerprints all over my glossy animals, then we’ll journey until we find the world in which we both fit. And when the path grows too dark to see even the bright parts of me, have faith in the sound of my voice. I’m here. I’m still the one leading.
Paige Lewis is the author of Space Struck (Sarabande Books, 2019). Their poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Georgia Review, Best New Poets 2017, and elsewhere. They currently teach at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA program at Randolph College.