Rowan Waller

“A Poem to an Old Friend”

sam eighteen years old barely

a man but not quite a child

swallowed water at the lake

he spit it out maybe worrying

for a second about the dirt in it

how could he have known that

when he went to bed he wouldn’t

wake back up drowning in his sleep

his mom rushed in when she

heard bubbling gasping screeches

coming from his room a mother

discovering her own child dying

of a nightmare inside his own bed

how he must have grasped at

his face how she must have

screamed his name to God

death makes us forget why

we stopped speaking to all

the people from our past

he was so young and I still

remember making fun of him

in high school he was the

gangly kid on the track team

who couldn’t keep his limbs

under control yet while we

taunted him we also cheered

during every race I believe the

last time I saw him was when

we all dove into a pool in the

middle of winter and everyone

almost passed out from shock

screaming and leaping upwards

in a fluid motion I think we all

could’ve had water in our lungs

he could have been

any one of us

“Damp Air”

she liked when he coated her like a film

of humidity when his body weighed

on hers in the night she craved

the moisture and he began leaving

sticky drops of condensation on her belly

she would sleep in the red Tacoma

dwelling and wait for him to come to

her they’d nestle like bodies in a canoe-

shaped casket because she sought to find his

soft fingers in her hair his gentle breeze

stirring her braids but when the wind stilled

she knew she was alone and the mountains

were forever behind them she couldn’t

remember the last time she was cleaned by rain

and she wondered if it was time to go home

“Don’t Forget to Flush”

mom used to find bits of my chopped off hair

around the house: under the kitchen carpet and

in the toilet (not flushed, just floating)

she would line us up in the hall and demand to know

whose it was my big sister was too much of a goody-

goody to try anything new with her hair so she could

always point to the short patch near my neck

I guess I didn’t outgrow my love of scissors until later

in life after I learned to carve lines in my wrist with

them when I was sad or wanted to try something new

except this time I was better at hiding the evidence

and if I happened to leave behind any blood-soaked

tissues I remembered to flush them down the toilet

instead of letting them float there like limp goldfish

“The Road Home”

we left Colorado with bitter coffee

in our mugs and the

                            crusted evidence

of sleep still on our eyelids

I took the wheel first, shading my face

             from the light of early sun while you

watched the mountains pass and

                                                       crumble

                                                 into prairieland

we stopped

at the last dispensary before the border to

                                   buy $50 worth of edibles

that we later lost

                           in California

still we itched to keep moving to press

                                                                    forward

                                                      somewhere greater

than the last

place we’d just been and when

we reached our destination triumphant yells

                                                       echoed

through forests of cholla and Joshua trees

              I couldn’t help being reminded

                                         of my own home

by the sweeping fields of gold and empty highways

              but I realized

                                        I couldn’t decide on a place

                                                     of origin anymore

I loved both worlds: one

              dappled in oil rigs and the other

full of dark mountains

capped in summer snow

                                      haunted by memories of

                                                               both

              I moved constantly

in pursuit of myself

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