The air with my breath, as I walked inside a ribbon of steel. Outside of the walls of my home, so much to know, to hold, to sigh into deeply.
Trees that burst with laughter, died in the shade. The gurgle of children, flowing in a forest nowhere near those trees.
A flock of herons, swarming into a missile, guiding themselves gracefully through the ashy expanse.
The way I unclasped a bra with unsteady hands in a cramped Cleveland Circle apartment, imagining that this would be the first time
I’d ever been intimate by choice with another human being. If only I could capture their laughter:
a boy, a tree, a heron, a river.
What a Bed Takes In
The things I’ve seen would make me tear out my eyes, if I had any. What I’ve felt, from so many years ago, still stains me deep in every fiber of my being no matter how many times I am washed.
I saw a boy, thin of frame, drawn into my center by a larger one, stronger, who pushed the little one’s head under my folds, & there it stayed for quite some time, bobbing like a cork in the Atlantic.
All of these years later, I want to swallow myself whole for letting it just happen, right on top of me, for not shouting, for not even breathing a word. How does one recover from witnessing such pain?
Will I ever tell you, dear reader, of all that I know? Can you wring it out of me, like water or semen? Will I collapse in a heap, damp at your feet? Can you stretch me in the rack, tortured & taut?
Even then, what am I? Certainly not what you see & touch every day. Surely, nothing so neat & serene & soft could hold so much inside.
When I Went Camping, I Never Wanted to Come Home
The air up there was thick with silence. Thick as heavy cream, uncut bread.
Along the East Branch of the Delaware, we hunted for frogs, toads, anything that moved, really.
At night, as a bonfire danced & crackled, the stars reminded us why they held our ancestors in such awe.
By day, the grownups would grill & we would explore unmolested by anything except swarms of gnats & mosquitos.
My parents, behind closed doors, would probably call the people who frequented the campground “white trash.”
Inside our home, the rot flowed silently, dripping from my brother’s top bunkbed into mine. At the end of the long weekend, I wanted, more than anything, to stay. I wanted the smell of cut grass to stay with me forever.
-- Phil Goldstein is a poet, journalist, and senior editor for a content marketing agency. How to Bury a Boy at Sea is his debut poetry collection, available now from Stillhouse Press. His poetry has been nominated for a Best of the Net award and has appeared in The Laurel-Review, Moist Poetry Journal, Rust + Moth, Two Peach, 2River View, Awakened Voices, The Indianapolis Review and elsewhere. Phil and his wife, Jenny, live in Alexandria, Virginia, with their dog Brenna and cats Grady and Princess.