At times, I would like a manual.
A pre-war woodshop textbook. Instructions
in Esperanto for how to assemble
the clearance furniture, the horrible pink table
and chairs, that winter the only set we could afford.
By at times I meant always. At times,
I would like to save a gorgeous soloist choking
on her sirloin at the platform table. I would like
my overnight train to evaporate in a forest
of fog and pines. Wasn’t there something shiny
and small we buried there and forgot? A number
on a napkin to call when things got bad?
The dining room would erupt in cheers,
but being noble never suited anyone.
Remember our elation at the balloon animals?
Green mouse, turquoise giraffe, how they seemed
like a kind of magic, blown-up and spun
out of air, which later we learned was a mostly
invisible kind of emptiness. By suited
I meant saved. Outside, it’s raining again
and inside I’m talking to you about the weather
again, like new neighbors stuck in an elevator,
or the old couple, married for fifty years
this October, together so long they’ve forgotten
how to not read one another’s minds.
I would like to get my hands on whatever manual
they used. There is a time for smelling the roses,
and it is not as often as you think. The fly needs help
unsticking from the web, so too the limbo-d
mosquito preserved in a chunk of amber.
I would like to pretend I don’t know
what’s going to happen to us when we disappear.
I know I used to drive through my neighborhood
after dark with a girl who was always fiddling
with the radio dial and talking about the weather,
the streamer clouds overhead backlit by the moon.
It may or may not be helpful to return.
Driving down the quiet street where you grew up,
the tiny homes, their orange rectangles of light.

Matt Morton