P. Ivan Young

When We Meet Again Some Day in the Past

You are fixed on Leo
DiCaprio playing his Romeo
and I was a guy
out of focus     because your hand
seemed so close

or maybe we have always been

across the table

in that drag club, the dance music
playing its present
tense, you looking     boom, boom, boom
at me, while I     boom, boom
look away and then we
slide sweet subjunctive

as if we were here now packing lunches for the children
as if we were back then saying I do

not understand the future present,
how we will have stood on that beach
watching the small fins of black tips
breach the inlet, how I could have
taken the teeth hanging in a shadow box
down from the wall and turned them
from this suburban house
to that ocean sun because we’d become
conditional, a story

we keep telling, its many conjugations:

I am were are an old hat
I turn up the brim on like some new idiom

and you have always will be was
that pink stripe dress
that curves down the back     Infinitive
to hold to be
and sometimes to let go

the present

is not perfect
even if you have walked down this sidewalk
for twenty years, even if you have
found your new ending -ed -ing.

Some future tense was always
me dancing
back then
to Elvis Costello

while you laughed, laugh, laughing
at my awkward hips, the silly tangle of my hair.

 

Ceremony for the Dead

You disappear while I watch TV,
a reflection on the edge of the screen
I tell, "maybe we shouldn't punish ourselves
for the children . . ." and then only the tremor
of the recliner where you sat.

I can't shake ghosts and you keep becoming
less real, a breath next to me in the night,
movement at the door while I put on my shoes.

I find your long shadow in the porch light,
knees tucked against chin, arms hugging shins,
a coke wedged between your feet.
I sit next to you and watch fireflies burn
random patterns on our eyes.

A story that haunts me: To mourn, Japanese women
float candles in wax bags on lotus leaves into a lake.
They kneel in rows, fingertips outstretched, palms up.

Your hand is opened, a gesture
I mistake. When I reach,
you flinch and so I take the can
from between your feet instead,
press its cold sweat
to my lips before I drink.

I want to tell you about the strand of pearls each wears,
the strange way setting adrift could be seen as reaching out
to the glowing vessels, the small hearts of fire flickering.

The moon drifts from behind the clouds,
igniting your face, your shadow eyes,
the mystery of your skin. I catch a firefly
in my hand, open my fingers.
The small flame glows and then like a house
finding sleep, goes dark.

I know the dead of my dark dreams: wrapped in silk
white kimonos, singing Geisha songs, lips red against snow—
a kiss can be a type of murder.

Author Portrait

P. Ivan Young is the author of Smell of Salt, Ghost of Rain (Brick House Books, 2015) and A Shape in the Waves (Stepping Stones Press, 2008). He is the winner of the 2013 Norton Girault Prize for Poetry and a recipient of a 2011 Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Grant. His poems have appeared in Passages North, Southeast Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Crab Orchard Review, Blue Mesa Review, The London Magazine, and North American Review, among others. Currently, he is working toward a doctorate at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he reads for Prairie Schooner.