You sit in your lawn chair
like a gray-haired frog who managed to get through life
without ever being told that he wasn’t a king.
Your hand raises, half in a fist,
index finger pointed at the skull in question
and circling slowly, as if you can’t quite decide
whether to stop on your bread-and-circuses way of thinking
or the other side of sanity that you’ve so cleverly assigned to me.
you say my hands must be ticking in the opposite direction
from the clock on the wall
and that old thing has never been known to go backwards;
no, that’s always been me,
with my lips sewn shut by the conviction
that my words would only bounce off of eardrums and back into my head
my arms wrapped tight around my ribcage
like coils of thread holding a cracked spool together
or a plaster cast keeping a broken bone still -
I wonder what side I would stand on
if I could find the hairline fracture that separates broken
from just a little cracked.
You would tell me that it’s in between my brain and skull
leaving just enough space for hurricane,
or maybe a thick cloud of smoke
from my neurons,
sparking with each connection and on the verge of bursting into flames -
if only you were metaphorically inclined.
So you fill the gap with caution tape
just so you can step around the thinnest patches in my icy voice
and get me to cover my ears long enough
that you can shake your head and smile at other people who think clockwise
with crooked teeth and lips that never press together long enough for needles of doubt
and threads of conviction to slither through your skin
and tie knots that the rest of the world wasn’t supposed to know about.
I remember that one time at the dinner table
when I couldn’t manage to hand my mom a pitcher of water as smoothly as I should have
we nearly spilled the whole thing
and my dad rolled his eyes and snorted out one word:
He didn’t understand why I slammed the pitcher down and dared him to call me that again
with bloody lips tearing apart the threads.
They say that we’ve all got a few splintering floorboards and loose strings
so how can he, and how can you
call anyone an unraveled mess;
the rope of an inept conjurer
who hasn’t yet mastered
the ruses of his trade?
my voice will crack
but I will hold it together between boards of silence
tied tight by steady words.
My neurons will smoke and spark
because they know what it is to fight for connections
that don’t sit as close together as the lawn chairs you spend your life in.
So you can continue trying to find delicate ways of saying
that I spend my days counting down from 12 to 1
but my hands have abandoned the face of the clock
to try to find something beyond one direction or the other
of circle after circle
of endless ticking.