Three Poems by Devin Kelly

In the museum of lost things there is a hole
you fall through & keep falling through
until you fall once more through another
hole in the museum of lost things there is
a room with the painting you came to see
painted over with another painting
in the museum of lost things the curator
separates the word painting into two
as a means to make you see the pain in things
it’s supposed to be clever but like most
things it’s not & this is a kind of loss & so
in the museum of lost things you have
already paid your entrance fee it was years
ago & you missed your stop on the train
because of that wrenching inside your gut
like a bird had made a nest out of the twigs
of your intestines I am so bewildered to be
alive as such I try to remember everything
so I might always return to a part of myself
that refused to surrender joy I was a boy
sitting in the backseat watching the blue
float behind the clouds or the clouds float
before the blue I can’t remember so I go
to the museum of lost things to figure
it out but here I am deeper inside myself
someone is hanging a painting upon
the near side of my skull what does it
look like I can’t tell there is a hole
I am falling through if I reach my hand
through this other hole it extends
into an arm that extends into a body
that extends into a tree that extends
into the earth I am always reaching
toward something toward what I can’t
tell are there stars where you are is it
the kind of light that I could never even
try to describe I’m sure you’ve heard
there is a little bit of us in everything
even dust even dirt even birds can see us
trying to love do you think they notice
the way we rummage through our pockets
looking for our keys our phones that scrap
of paper upon which I wrote down my last
thought it said I am something trying
something to tell you something about love

At night I hear the open windows arguing
with one another like the moon is not
the face of your first lover’s father
breathing quiet as he listens on the home
phone’s other line. We each live in the ether
of discontent, & the continent hums beneath
us, & that hum is the hum of all of this
rumbling together as it separates. Once,
waking in the city, I walked alone, making
my own tracks in the snow & then turning
back to watch them, albeit gradually,
disappear. I know the past is nothing
but a dog’s hair on the underside of a pillow,
& yet I thought I could make it invisible,
the way I walked all morning & into afternoon,
past the wet & closed thresholds of other
people’s lives, where each doorman stood
without question guarding what I assumed
must have been fire, or the clinking of ice
in a glass, only to turn around & find not even
a trace of where I’d been. All of my life
I have been wanting. But I know this. & this
is only to say: all of my life I have been
wanting to find in my wanting a kind
of dignity I can live with without looking
back to find that place where it all went
so terribly wrong, where I became, all
at once, who I am. It isn’t much, a story,
but it explains something.
& the people now whose windows are blue
as a dying heart raise their voices once more
before lowering them into that final
crescendo of a whisper. & they will go
to bed together or alone, or together &
alone, & the seasons will come one after
another in the steady march of nature
that underlines all our fumbling, & years
from now someone will call you & you
will not remember their voice & you will
feel terrible. & you will long for someone
to step out from the audience & hold
your hand & say “it’s alright, it’s happened
to me too.” & if it happens or it doesn’t,
let me say: sorrow is the insomnia of feeling,
& morning always comes. Thankfully.
Without fail. I am trying to be better
at waking. This morning I will walk out
into the city & see how the light reflects
off a thousand mirrors before it finds my face.
In this way, I know, we are all forgiven.

In the valley before the rain Noah lined up the saved
two by two. Where there was supposed to be
an ark, there was only the promise of an ark
& the couples paced about the dirt as the sun
held them for an hour before leaving.
Time passed like the shadow of a fish.
Everyone grew old & wanted more
& finding not even less, began to need.
This place we have come to call the world
was once nothing more than nothing —
time deflated until the space between a knuckle
& a nail measured Holocene. What can we make
of this? The couples waited the long turn of a page
that represents an epoch. They grew weary
& began to fight. One man’s voice called itself
by a different name. It was dark. No one could
see. People died. Others wandered up the mountain,
hunched through the weeds, & found
themselves in the hollowed moan of a tree.
It was late. There was sorrow. The intimacy
of bone crushing bone. I can understand without
forgiving & forgive without understanding.
It’s the swallow’s burden to keep singing
through it all. Come morning, the dove called
from the other side of the hill & the flood
that was the end of all floods began to flood.
The old promise of a boat emerged as small
as a nail head along the long curve of the horizon.
Noah was nowhere to be found. Tell me
what shame makes of a man. Tell me the heart,
lodged in the ribs, is not treading water
through a night that never ends. Those left
moved from one body of the drowned
to the next until they reached the ark.
I don’t know their names. They could have
been anyone. We are descended from this
history. Home is the splash of Icarus falling
along the horizon & Noah, alone, rowing
toward it. We are taking the long way around.

Devin Kelly

Devin Kelly earned his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is the author of In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (Civil Coping Mechanisms). He is the winner of a Best of the Net Prize, and his work has been published or is forthcoming in The Guardian, LitHub, Catapult, Diagram, Redivider, and more. He lives and teaches high school in New York City.

Lilly Higgs

Lilly is an illustrator and comic artist working in her hometown of Louisville, KY, with her two cats, Peanut and Noodle. (Together they make Pad Thai.) The daughter of two authors, Lilly accepted her fate, knowing she was bound to do something creative. She attended Savannah College of Art and Design, including studying illustration in New York and Japan. Her previous publications include TokyoPop’s Gothic & Lolita Bible, and Hazel.


First Featured In: No. 12, winter 2018

The Taboo Issue

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