Eternal Business / or / Ode to Amelia Stapes
For Emily // After Devin Gael Kelly
Route 87 runs to the Pennsylvania border. I drive this
when lost or finding myself. Emily is in the passenger seat
picking a song to play next, her thin fingers scrolling
through a display of pixels and settling on Maps.
Old Emilys have sat in her place, either dead or lost
in the space between then and now. The first of which
I found on the bathroom floor, her wrists bloodied
and bandaged with toilet paper. I carried her to the bath,
placed her under the melding of hydrogen with breath,
and washed the corpse clean for her mother.
The new Emily is lovely, far kinder and with wider eyes—
blue as ocean ice. She hands me the phone, stares
up at the stars and gasps. For an unclean moment I am
thinking Atlas resembling horsehead. and steam engines.
let it roll on out of here. catch the window washers drooling
in their buckers, slip the schooners past the cove, hop
a freighter dead-set on morning and race the horizon
home. But the schizophrenia passes, and I am left
holding the steering-wheel East. The sky is endless
and dark, a blue canvas of midnight, speckled with stars.
I call my mother. Tell her I am looking for the answer
to the question of can you love someone forever? I hang up
before she answers. We are not built for forever, only joy
is made for eternal business. This mewling thing of grace,
the morning bells open in praise, shiver and genuflect.
Gold glow of an electric stove, the jittering of neurons,
the old woman clutching Dickinson’s feathers and
un-growing in the silence of the night—the quiet
waiting for us like the end of a long sentence. I call this
joy and joy again, dancing cheek to cheek with yellow.
Emily—her red mouth, and careful eyes, staring
through a pane of glass and into everything
on the other side of midnight; me—confessing
the desire to run away into a new life and away
from the conundrum of time; and a song we are both
screaming at the top of our lungs—it is Boston
by Augustana, and in this moment of full reliance
and belief in music, I wake again into my life
blooming with lilacs—the blood on the bathroom
floor finally cleaned and lipstick left in its place.
Somewhere my friend Gabe is on a plane to his new life and
in my mother’s favorite books
nothing happens. How each page
bending towards a similarity
in another, again and again,
is how we build ourselves
an eraser. How we watch baseball
and you say you relate most to the ball—
you end up where you end up:
out there. Outside the ball-park
I make eye contact with strangers
in passing cars, each time telling them
the ways I am my mother’s child.
How I too, am building myself an eraser,
building myself a world inside these pages
where no-one I love is dead;
and the bigness of malcontent
at not knowing
the end of the story isn’t so big
and when I stare down the tunnel’s end
there is no train departing,
and nobody leaves.
J. David is from Cleveland, Ohio and serves as poetry editor for Flypaper Magazine.