The morning air swallows your headache and you wonder
whether you deserve to be clear-headed or
if the calendar knows something that you don’t.
Deep holes form at the bottom of every year, hiding
under music notes. You think maybe
this is the kind of sharp dizziness Dylan’s women would understand.
To know your life is sung somewhere
by lips you can’t read anymore, to be tied down
to chord progressions in someone else’s head, is this how it feels
to have been the temporary keeper of a ghost?
A windy New York, a curious and warm December
wrought with postcard whispers in the thin stretches of sleep—
You wake up to a phantom voice bending close.
They have always come back this way—dice in hand, nervous grins
or gnashing teeth, the familiar overcoats—with everything forgiven.
You have always offered tea and cautious smiles,
tried not to let on about the sleepless nights between measures
or the careful records you kept.
You have never needed to explain the difference
between sweeping dirt beneath a rug and tucking photos
between mattresses. Are you not still their gypsy cat with the same old
color-shifting eyes? An open-mouthed memory without a coda?
Remember, they never undid the lock
all by themselves. You were always there on the other side,
ear pressed to the door, a finger on the latch.
Jess Cording’s work has appeared under several names in various print and online publications, most recently Extracts, Knocking at the Door: Poems About Approaching the Other, Whistling Fire, Squid Quarterly, Otter Tail Review.