after Denis Johnson
Outside I smoke a cigarette
while a plane’s ambivalence
drones suspended like a cello
& some man screams at the television
lighting blue his windowpane.
There’s so much nothing here
& I want to believe in all of it,
like how my high school girlfriend
cornered me at a party near ten years
after we ended & said I want you to know
we had a good run. But we didn’t.
I remember nothing but my fingers
twitching the memorized numbers
in the longing for someone to talk to
because I didn’t know then
that silence could be a kind of conversation.
I would go back now, though, live in the nervous fidget
before I said I like you & kissed her braces
with my upper lip & bled all over her teeth.
Go back even more, pause before
my brother pitched the curveball
Alex Spiliotes hammered over the fence
& remember his eyes, white against the licorice sky,
how they could’ve held the whole of everything.
A boy can know something for sure
but never give it a name, the softness
of not using a tongue to kiss
or of a ball drifting further from your hand
& over your head, & the fence, & forever –
where it still exists in a kind of night
like this one, where nothing happens.
I called the pitch & thought for too long I ruined
my brother’s life. He stopped
smiling & even the light never dappled
the slight shoeshine of his lashes. But our mother
had just left us & my brother was scared
& there were fathers launching themselves up
from their chairs like the cannon fire
of another generation to cheer on someone other
than my father’s son & Kristoph & Porter & Stephen
spun gazing as the ball twirled over the fence
& into the stars & I remember everyone’s names
like a litany of the saints but none of this
is any good to me now. The next morning
brother & I took gloves & bubblegum outside
& I remember him throwing & me
talking like I had never talked before.
Put it there, Tom. Nice pitch. You’re throwing
faster than ever. He either was
or he wasn’t, but tell me
if that matters now.