by Chloë Gottlieb
after Lisel Mueller
There’s nothing yet.
Thousands of pale blue graduation caps land perfectly on our heads,
descending from the sky with immaculate precision.
We cross the tassels from left to right.
I unsend a text message asking for more time.
My dress floats up my body from a pool of cloth on the floor,
zips from the bottom up.
I think of the last year in the present tense.
The lines of a T.S. Eliot poem reverse into my mouth, and I swallow them whole.
We waltz around a parlor. Dancing looks the same in reverse,
until we let go. We detach, fall through gravity to a drink at the bar.
The lights on the trees turn on.
I make a list of things to forget.
We picnic in Central Park. Corks fly into bottles of sparkling wine, slices in a cake evaporate.
Postage for voting ballots unstick from the envelope.
They land on our tongues.
In San Francisco, I miss everyone I haven’t yet met.
Everything freezes. Everything looks the way it does
from the underside of a glass of water, half-knowable.
Life is more of a love story than a ghost town.
A security guard gifts me a fake I.D.
Laughing erases wrinkles.
I wake up from a drunken slumber on a subway car and into a party.
I hand out drinks. I am sobering up more and more.
Moving north, far away
from wet clothes in Rockaway.
I learn to stop looking for him in the people I meet here.
On the bus from Boston to New York, my birthday undoes,
and I turn one year younger.
I walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, east to west.
I take off my orientation shirt.
I unwrap my arms around my mother. I have never said goodbye before.
We walk backwards onto an airplane at JFK together.
We untape boxes. We take all my earthly belongings out of those boxes,
fold them neatly back in my drawers.
I have always lived next to the sound of someone breathing.
A physics professor talks of the asymmetrical experience of time,
how a lifetime can move both forward and backward,
he tells me this in a classroom
four years from right now.
I consider moving to New York.
has not even started.
Here there is paper.
Write it all down for me, tell me
what it will feel like.