THE JELLYFISH SALESMAN

I wanted to make a life
like a school full of jellyfish.
Have you ever put a whole fried
squash blossom in your mouth
and pushed your tongue so hard
that you could taste the first snowfall
the winter you finally learned
to stop inviting in
your own undoing?

No, of course you haven’t.
Because it’s not nearly
late enough in Autumn
for you to know how
to build a campfire
and keep it burning
through your dark night
of Whoever Should
Happen to Know How
You Take Your Coffee next.

It wasn't like we were driving
when we went in search
of a place where
our watches didn’t work,
it was more like we were being carried.

But how do you tell someone
that one day, your mother
is going to die
and you won’t know how
to exist in a world
where you won’t hear her
pick up the phone and say,
“Hello, Babycakes.”

And that you’re going to need
to be sewn back together
into the shape of someone
who doesn’t lick their fingers
and stick them into wall sockets?

If you weren’t left handed,
we would still have gone
to that cabin in the woods
of Allegheny
and had sex
so good
that the birds flooded the trees
so when you looked up
the branches appeared as if
they were remembering
what it was like
when they were stars.

But this isn’t like
the French movies
we used to watch
without subtitles,
so that you would
have to translate
every word

even though sometimes
you would just make up
the dialogue
when you thought
you could have written it
better.

You didn’t think
that I knew
but I did,
and I never told you.
Because I liked it
when you looked away from me
and smiled.

I’m so sorry that sometimes
I split my infinitives.
It’s just that
I’ve been trying to explain
my loneliness lately
using a language somewhere
between the video
your mother showed me
of when you spoke
your first sentence
and told her you loved her

and the voicemail
that I keep saved on my phone
that I asked my best friend
to leave for me
telling me anything
she’d want me to know
if she died.

And even though I think
sometimes people understand
what I mean when I say
that I’m not coming home for Christmas
because since you left
I don’t have anywhere to go,

it’s just not possible for them to know
what it was like for me
on the day you removed
my fear of flying.

That’s why I don’t believe them
when they tell me
I can just throw
a housewarming party
to replace the dishes
I threw against the wall
after we unlearned the words
to the song we listened to
75 times
while laying on your
twin sized mattress.

One of these days,
I’m going to prepare dinner
for all of the versions of myself
that I tried to be
to see if you
would notice.

But how can you explain to a person
sitting at the bottom of the ocean
that tens of thousands of feet up
there’s this thing called “light”
and it comes from the Sun

that on your best day
would pull the freckles from your nose
in just the right pattern
that I could connect them
with my fingers
and spell out my new initials

on the day you named me Yours.
How do you explain the sun
to anyone, really?
There are days I don’t believe it
myself.
It wasn’t until now
that I knew
that I wanted to keep with you a family,
safe.

But what do you do with a memory
that hasn’t happened yet?
I’ve been writing them down
on postcards
and sending them to myself
with the caption,
“It’s surprising how quickly
you get used to a hole
in the ground.”

On Thanksgiving this year,
when I break the imaginary wishbone
no matter which side I pull
I’ll be praying that I never again
have to know what it’s like
for you to tell me that you love me
for the last time.

You’d think that after twice
of making the same wish
I’d have tried my hand
at another hobby.

I just can’t seem to stop
trying to describe the sunset
the evening that you first
felt like home.

I still have to set a reminder
to change the incense in the thurible
at the church of
How Holy It Is to Have A Heart.
They just don’t burn it
as often as they used to.

What I’m really trying to say
in this letter
is that I’m the kind of person
who often doesn’t know
the “right” thing to say
but I would drive all night
if you told me
that your favorite kind of joy
was waiting for someone
to arrive.

There’s no use in attempting
to turn the airplane around,
we’re going down
no matter which direction
we’re facing.

It’s just a matter of how long
before
we run out of oxygen,
and have to wish each
a Happy Birthday
by text, using no exclamation marks.

It’ll be months before
we’re even sending
“I hope you’re doing well”
on a Sunday evening
while smoking on the porch.

All that I’m doing these days
is rearranging the furniture
in my bedroom nightly
to see if you left anything behind.

If you’re wondering how I’m doing,
all that you have to do
is walk my shadow home one night
and she’ll tell you all about
just how Fine we are,
removing the apples
from our eyes.

Her and I going out dancing,
to the sounds of people
falling in love
before they even know it.

We unclench our jaws
and swing our hips
and let go of all the times
that we drank molasses
because we thought
nothing could be as sweet
as falling asleep on FaceTime
and waking up
still connected.

I promise you this, Shadow,
if we ever answer the phone
to the voice of a man
selling schools of jellyfish,
we won’t be so fooled this time,
we’ll ask for proof of rescue,
we’ll haggle down the price,
we’ll get what we deserve.