Ross Losapio is a graduate of the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University and the recipient of the 2013 Catherine and Joan Byrne Poetry Prize. His poetry appears or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the minnesota review, The Emerson Review, and elsewhere. His reviews appear in Blackbird, Rattle, and Verse Wisconsin.
“Doors only exist in relation to the human figure . . .”
One day you won’t leave me like a prostitute,
she proclaims from the air mattress
in the middle of her new living room.
We’re exhausted from unpacking books
and assembling furniture, but I have a plane
to catch, a connection in Charlotte,
then Tampa before I go north. Flight paths
that scatter flocks. Home changes
relentlessly: a dorm in Charm City, a rented room
in Spain, a woman’s apartment
on weekends. Years ago, my family
piled into the minivan and drove
out where a farm had been, where a house was
being built for us, skeleton framing twilight.
Stay away, the nail guns and belt sanders warned—
left in the open for any kid biking
the open foundations to find. Staircase
unfinished, my father lifted me up
onto the landing—startling pairs
of roosting birds—for a look
at the second floor. Home. Already
I’d claimed a room, bigger than my brother’s
by a centimeter of blueprint: my right, as oldest.
I lay down where the forest green carpet
would go, breathed in dust and sweat
and the cricket-call of evening. She waits
and the blinds rattle light, discordant fingers
on the window. There is no door
without my figure in it, waving goodbye.
No staircase that is not my father. No home
that is not her. I want to tell her all that, something
more than the stuttering goodbye,
tumbling from my mouth, like eggs
from an upset nest. I give her all of myself
I’m able—arms and tongue, pocket change,
candy bar, photographs—before the sun
rushes in and wrests my attention, my patience—
what I can’t yet give her completely.
“. . . for my part I celebrate the frogs”
Their disembodied, polyphonic choir of night murmors
and chirps as I stand beside the gas pump, blind beneath
the station's single bulb. Beetles circle. The arc of copper
teardrop bodies clouds the air like electrons around a neon
nucleus, shifting the axis. In Antartica, the South Pole
moves this way: ice shelves creep outward, and each year
a new brass marker is driven into the frost. The past drifts
off in neat, linear form. We measure its skew. Miles away,
explorers plot the continent's pole of inaccessibility, that
remotest region, most difficult to reach, which for me—
waiting as the pump's meter ticks off each gallon and
dollar—would be an apartment on the corner where I left
my love among boxes, packing peanuts, and plastic-
wrapped furniture. Unseen, the frogs strike out with their
tounges, obliterating the distance between them and what
they desire, little gods. Three hours from home and the
Monday morning shift waiting for me, I brush flies and
mosquitoes from my arms.
“A bowl of milk has arrived warm from the cow.
We have opened the whiskey in its honour.”
Milk your finger, the lab tech instructs, pricking me,
meaning exactly what it sounds like—squeeze
enough blood to fill a plastic pipette. After a moment,
she takes over, and I wonder if my hand still smells
of the potato I cut earlier to fill out
a meal of egg and onion—starch-thick scent
locked in the wrinkles of my palm, escaping
in muffled gasps with its every arch and grasp.
As she tests the plasma count in my blood,
my watch face rattles around to the underside
of its wrist. (I’ve been getting thin on poetry.)
Nodding, she guides me to a row of blue-sterile beds,
where a tired woman, her age written in her face,
jabs for my vein like mining a seam
for coal. In four cycles—forty-five minutes—
my fluids are drained, panned for gold liquid
in a centrifuge, and returned. I’m unplugged, patched,
and shown to a window to trade a bar-coded sticker
for twenty-five dollars. If that’s enough to fill
my gas tank, I’ll see you in the morning. If not,
a bottle of Kentucky Gentleman’s only seven ninety-five.
-Titles taken from Robert Byron's The Road to Oxiana.