If Alone Has a Flavor
Some sort of tinned fish. Check.
Udon noodles ready in five minutes.
Check. The peanut oil. Yes.
Sesame seeds shaken like snow. Oh, yes.
And sea salt from a small caddy in flakes,
sun packed inside like energy in atoms.
It won’t end. What won’t end? This life
we feel’s always about to end, waking
at night sensing how hard the bed,
how small the heart and its beating.
An ongoing action. Inside like a weevil
in a nut, the idea it won’t rain tonight.
All these mouths open at the sky
getting nothing but starshine.
It tastes of wintermint, but you knew that.
I can see bright things. Pick the queen from
a crowd. When it comes to that crimson band
across the chest of the bird crawling through
the windflowers, I want to say, Look I’ll lie down,
pull a small hole into my chest and you can
climb in beside my heart. Can I build
an apartment house on my legs? Sometimes
I find myself with a bib and can’t remember
putting it there. If you can greet people
walking into a store you can work, even if
that won’t keep you in dog food. Here’s the deal,
some of us see the setting sun on the street
and think gold. Some of the insects circling
in a cloud beside the lake can fit in your mouth
jogging, but not all of them. The world goes
on without us. All those smiling faces coming
out of your feed. Most of them are you, sitting
on the curb, hugging your daughter in a bar,
you smiling while something’s going on
behind you involving ice cream. Every day
some of us go to work and make the world
a better place for other people. The lady
sets platters of potato pancakes (Do you want
sour cream or apple sauce? Yes, we respond.),
onion pierogis, Polish beers that knock us
on our ass, sauerkraut, and one small dish
of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, a few
threads of red onion, drizzled in olive oil
grown on a tree far away. Some August
a bus put-puts down the road. Kids in
soccer clothes. Lunch boxes. One stares out
at the dusty hillside. Everything looks like gold.
Gold with a green olive tree in the center.
That’s Me When That’s You
The sun has come out again
and you’ve noticed. I’ve noticed
you noticing, and the city has all
this asphalt across muddy floors
where forests were, tufted grasses,
a stream you could set a leaf on,
place a pebble in the leaf.
When my arms tire canoeing
I joke we should bring a sheet
to lift at the wind and you make
the sound of laughter which is
better than silence if actual laughter
isn’t an option. Remember that
afternoon when you read to me
as I lay on the floor with my head
on a pillow in the sun—80s ambient
music, something about postcards
in the title—and I thanked you,
trying to explain how it made
my brain—words like meditation,
standing wave. I try so hard to pin
these moments like a dog
with its mouth around another’s,
both frozen, eyes to the distance,
wondering at this strange dance
we find ourselves in. When you crush
the coriander we grew ourselves,
rinse rain from a plate of basil
and rosemary—you know how
little kids will pound the ground
with whatever’s in their hands?
Christopher Citro is the author of If We Had a Lemon We’d Throw It and Call That the Sun (Elixir Press, 2021), winner of the 2019 Antivenom Poetry Award, and The Maintenance of the Shimmy-Shammy (Steel Toe Books, 2015). His honors include a Pushcart Prize for poetry, Columbia Journal‘s poetry award, and a creative nonfiction award from The Florida Review. He teaches creative writing at SUNY Oswego and lives in sunny Syracuse, New York.