by Justin Maki

Lockstep, seat to seat
jotting pseudonyms. Do we like
the same books? Have you ever
collapsed in public? The sly comic
calling starts and stops keeps
misquoting Williams. Love is a quiet
boat-shoed thing, fidgeting with its
drink as the stars fall.
 How many siblings
helped you learn to loathe yourself?
Why can’t you play the piano? Tell me
in ten words or less how you so badly
misread fate. The first commandment?
Love Thyself. Now move. Climbing from
one dunk tank to the next, each seat
precarious. The comic needles us
with references to his girlfriend.
Love is a calming, beet-red shirt
semi-nonexistent as the weeds grow.

Each seat a slight adjustment in view
of the wall’s huge watercolor oyster,
cheeky, creased–the face of Darwin
drowning in mercury. There’s no
such thing as “away from” the struggle.
Only hypotheticals. Say you’re stuck
alone on a desert island: what sort of vessel
were you sailing, and what did you do
that destroyed it? Would you rescue
from the sinking ship a) its hundred-year
supply of food and water, or b) the last
cyanide capsule? I don’t remember who
I’m talking to, can’t be bothered
to look. Fake names, real hostility.
I think we only do this for posterity:
when words like “hopeless,” “dread”
and “depressed” eventually vanish
from our language, ritual speed dates
will re-create them exactly. I’ll donate
my messy notes on who has or hasn’t
gone to an Ivy League school or gotten
stabbed at a craps game; my scrawled
recognitions of self, deal-breakers all,
from blemished skin to poorly-concealed
frustration, as in the woman who spent years
willing herself to have an aneurysm
but ended up only with frizzy hair.

Justin Maki earned his B.A. in English/Japanese from the University of Colorado at Boulder and spent four years as a teacher in Osaka, Japan. He lives in New York City.