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Brett Warren

Learning to Fly

After the rape, I took up

with a paraplegic guy

who said he’d gotten high

and jumped off a building,

thinking he could fly.

I wasn’t convinced this

was what really happened.

But his story seemed important,

the kind of truth that might arise

when you’re trying to survive.

We slept on his waterbed,

which was tidal and complicated,

but also peaceful, like when

the wheels of a plane lift off

and you get to be nowhere,

in between places for a while.

We were both damaged.

He had learned to adapt.

I was new to it, noticing

obstacles everywhere. Curbs.

Stairs. Doors that swung out

instead of in. He had to look up

at the liquor-store clerk,

who had to look down

at him. He kept his money

in a canvas bag, its handles

slung over the back of his chair.

He’d ask the clerk, or even

a stranger, to fish his wallet

out, shimmy a six-pack in.

The bottles rattled

when he crossed

the threshold and rolled

down the uneven sidewalk.

He wore racing gloves,

the kind with no fingers,

so he could save his hands.

Sometimes I’d sit on his lap

and we’d tear down

the dark streets

of our college town,

flashing in and out

of pools of light,

past ruined lawns

and palatial houses

where frat boys

passed out drunk

on top of their victims,

no one awake

to see us flying by.


Though I know exactly where you are,

and it’s not far, it seems unlikely

we’ll see each other again. We lived

in a rented house with a kitchen so small

there wasn’t room to change your mind.

Or so you said. But you made sourdough bread

in the creaky oven, omelets in a hinged pan

you could snap shut and flip over an open flame.

You grew catnip in a pot on the porch,

and the cat curled around it to nap in the sun.

We smoked into the night, again in the morning.

Once you spilled the bong on the carpet.

We never did get the smell out. We were young.

I’m not sure we really tried. The garage had doors

nailed together by someone before our time,

scrap wood painted over but still rotten

from the bottom, a hole big enough for a cat

to squeeze through. Ours stood half in, half out

of it the morning after she was hit by a car,

made it home but had to be put down anyway.

I sold my motorbike to pay the bill. I went back

a few years ago, crawled along in my rental car

past the corner store where we walked

to buy a single bottle of beer. The house

was gone, torn down to build something new.

Your eyes were topaz. Strangers in churches

always thought you were the savior.

You’ve taken yourself away from everyone

who knew you then. Sometimes one of them

remembers something, wonders where you are.

I don’t tell. One thing I know is that you

don’t want to be found.

Mothers of Boys

One frosted her hair.

It might have been a wig.

She enjoyed an afternoon martini,

toy poodles arranged

like sofa pillows around her.

She didn’t bother to get up.

Two had a head injury

from a car accident

six months before her wedding,