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Winter 2019/20

John Amen


We swapped ditties in my parents’ kitchen,
my twelve-string Yamaha, your father’s ukulele,
while upstairs the grad student whittled her thesis,
shouting profanity in the dark.
I wanted you to spend the night,
I wanted to climb inside you & never come out,
mornings unspooling like radio jazz.
I could’ve lived my life that way,
one helluva day after another.
You tweaked a phrase, I teased a melody,
I haven’t seen you since we were teenagers
splashing in pop tunes & pentatonic scales.
But then, this story brims with surrogates & impossible desire,
a chance to be saved on my own terms.
Our choruses fluttered into silence,
the mourning dove that nested in my mother’s throat
still cooing in the tall grass,
& the grad student long gone,
a copy of her thesis stashed in the attic,
buried beneath mannequins & a cracked guitar.
Wind blows through an open window.
Wind blows through a cluttered room.
This is a happy ending.

John Amen is the author of several collections of poetry, including Illusion of an Overwhelm, released by NYQ Books in 2017. His poetry and prose have appeared recently in Prairie Schooner, American Literary Review, Colorado Review, and Prism, among other publications. He founded and continues to edit Pedestal Magazine.


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