Matthew Lippman

They Will Always Remember There Were Kids Like Them


When my daughter texts me she is 28,000 feet over Illinois

moving 485 miles an hour towards California.

There are no bombs up here.

The dog and I are moving slowly across Fallon Field

when I text her back.

No. There is just blue sky and all the stars in space.


I meet a guy named Dave on the ground with his boy Bill.

Natalie meets the clouds and tells them to back off

so she can see the fighter jets when they come.

Then she tells the clouds to come close

so the fighter jets have nowhere to go.

This will be her whole life

if being in the sky is where she wants to be.


I imagine Dave’s boy Bill has never wanted to fly airplanes

though I’m sure his life will be one with beer and baseball.

That’s everyone father/son dream. Maybe.


Natalie’s dream for herself moves between clouds of love and clouds of hate.

That’s a lot for a 12-year-old who gets close to the sky.

She’s a star.

She’s starlight.

She’s an imploding ball of gas and light

and drinks lemonade to cool herself down.


Dave’s boy Bill threw a football into the sky today.

He said, I’m gonna hit that plane.

At least it’s not a missile, he says.

He’s six.

Natalie is twelve.

For the rest of their lives,

up in their heads,

no matter where they stand,

they will always remember that there were kids like them

in another part of the world

who hid underground very far away from the sky

where the bombs came from

then blew up over their heads.


THE SMELL OF A PEELED ORANGE FROM ACROSS THE ROOM


There is some grainy footage of me falling out of a closet in first grade. Maybe it’s 2nd grade. Maybe it’s not even a closet. It might be a large empty cardboard refrigerator box that we made into a closet, or a house, or a whole damn country. A country with sheep and hills and perfectly manicured Colonials next to 1972 New York City subway cars with all that nasty, beautiful graffiti. That kind of country where people would run into you on the street and say, ‘How are you today?’ and you would reply, ‘I appreciate you asking,’ and then move on to buy newspapers and sell gladiolas. I fell out of that and then there is a pause in the grainy footage and then there is an explosion heard in the distance and then Sally falls out of the doorway of the closet or the refrigerator box or the country. I remember once watching this movie with some of my friends and one of my friends said, ‘Oh,’ after Sally fell on top of me as if Sally and I were 1st graders in love loving one another in a country full of hills and subway cars. Her hair was all over my hair as we toppled on top of one another and it smelled the smell of a peeled orange from across the room.


There is no grainy footage of the night Sally and I sat together in a big leather chair in Jen’s house while the rest of our friends slept in sleeping bags and in closets of countries where there are no explosions just the fear of explosions and Sally’s hair still smelled of a peeled orange from across the room. We were 16 now and all the subway cars had been cleaned up and we writhed and wriggled in orange peel and she told me I was a stupid boy and that meant that there would be no other night like this for me and I couldn’t remember my name but her name was Sally and if I were a leader of a small country, I would have named it Sally for her hair smelled of a peeled orange from across the room. There were no bombs except the ones in our pockets and I ran my fingers through her hair because she let me and I remember thinking, You can only do this when someone lets you. The leather chair was a subway car and it took us up and down the island and when it was morning, I was alone but my hands and fingertips smelled so much like an orange peeled from across the room that I ate them on the hills of a country that had been named Sally sweating with broken-down subway cars smothered in graffiti.


The last time I saw Sally, Norman had died. The world is about to end with all the bombs and the children in bomb shelters and the sheltering-in-place 1st graders deep underground. There is an orange on my desk and it’s not fair. It’s not fair that I get to sit here and write love letters to a country named Sally while a country named Ukraine can’t get on a graffitied subway train and enter the tunnel of itself smelling of an orange that a young child ripped to shreds across the room, near the dog, who took a slice in its mouth and ran toward Norman, calling from the dead, saying, ‘Don’t come here yet. Not now.’