Brett Hanley is a Poetry Editor for Southeast Review. She holds an MFA from McNeese State and is a PhD candidate at Florida State. Their work is forthcoming or has recently been published in Redivider, Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter, Puerto del Sol, THE BOILER, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. She has received support from The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and American Poetry Journal recently published their debut chapbook, Defeat the Rest.
This place is a metaphor for my dysthymia.
If everything beautiful is born of wreck,
then take me to the salvage yard of my affect.
I sit at our booth, waiting for no one.
The mortician sits down next to me
and explains what happened to the stars:
they were shook from the tree of the sky
like figs by a heavy wind, and if we climbed
up to the roof of the bar, we would see them
splayed out there, confused, shaking.
I ask him if we should get on the roof
and throw them upward, hoping
the sky will fetch them.
He says all we can do is wait.
I hate this sentiment. I’m going to wish
upon them, each wish not for the world
but for myself, to wind time in the direction
of the room where everyone taken early from me
sits in a circle of chairs, and someone in the room
has just said something so funny we laugh
until our sides split and our eyes flood
and we become aware of our cheeks
and everything outside that room, especially
here now, dissolves into cosmic frass.
I’ve been given the key to the boundless pit.
I used to think I was better for my suffering.
Now I know it ran off with something of mine.
The jukebox plays Fast Car. I’ve no plan.
Only when I step out into the world,
I feel pressure to be more vivid
like a surprise lily or a thunderstorm.
None of my blood relatives can regulate their emotions.
The weather here doesn’t know how anymore either.
It’s Whiskey Wednesday, and it will
continue to be Whiskey Wednesday
until the mortician turns to me
and asks if I heard it’s last call.
There’s no ledge for my unwavering bleakness,
a place to set it down like a coffee cup between sips,
only a table that wobbles for my whiskey neat,
and I must mention the water’s pooled so much
it’s up to our knees. We don’t say these
are the end times anymore. Living through them,
we know time is a laugh track, and everything’s
a little hurtful in perhaps a comical way.
I reach into the water and feel something small, slippery,
lift it out: a goldfish, the kind you win at a carnival,
the kind that dies the next day. This one still kicks
and curls in my hand like a fortune teller miracle fish.
I don’t want to know what its movements predict,
and nothing is rainbow, rainbow, rainbow,
but I let the fish go. They’re cheap, my Dad said
about carnival fish, mine at the top of its bowl.
You can’t expect them to live.