I ran into someone who lives in your neighborhood,
and all at once my mind was full of snapshots:
a New Year’s in Prospect Park
with fireworks so bright, you wore your sunglasses;
the way you ran from traffic on Flatbush Avenue;
the way you always took the F train by accident;
your flounder shirt that changed color;
the greasy finger that blocked you
in a picture some tourist took;
your almost-mugging and the way you never stopped being scared;
the violin you listened to as intently
as if you wanted to become sound.
We’re no longer on speaking terms.
Nothing happened. We’ve drifted too far apart.
Now it’s impossible to be in each other’s presence.
But today every piece of art on the wall
reminds me of you
and feels like the first true thing I’ve noticed in years.
I hear a British folk trio sing about maggots:
a man with no social skills has died,
and no one noticed except the maggots inside him.
I don’t care to be social
with anyone but you.
Maybe I’ll run into you—
maybe someone will force you at gunpoint to take part in some poetry reading
where everyone in the audience except me
is an alligator
and you have no choice but to talk to me.
I miss you.
You bust cranberry-filled soap bubbles,
crack the fine points of the Americano,
get in with all the right elephants in the room,
drive your Hyundai Azera,
wake up with a heartache after a heart-to-heart.
Our paths never cross.
November ushers in memories of music
of a November-obsessed dark band you admired.
Dropping you off at the bus,
I would hurry to put on my headphones
to listen to a rough November song
to quickly mythologize
the time we’d spent together.
Long repetitive dirges slow down the mind.
Eyes remain fixed on a reflecting pool.
I sniff the air for moments I forgot.
Rotting leaves bring me back to the busy gate
near the cemetery,
where I leaned on black metal,
saying goodbye to you.
Anonymous lovers hold hands in a shrieking way.
I dreamed of marrying you once.
You made teddy bears relevant.
Some of your last words to me were,
“I’m so domestically-minded,
sometimes I scare myself!”
I could have hoped for nothing better
than making a domestic life with you,
no matter how often I treated you
as if you were an orchestra in the sky.
Night makes every cat turn grey.
Staring into the pool, I see names and dates.
I turn off the rough music
that tries to encapsulate
every November that ever happened to man.
I learn to remember you in silence.
But the music always returns.
He could write about people inhaling
alphabet soup in a particular order,
their startling background stories
revealed by angles of their incisors.
He could drop a sexy aside
about a hyper sunflower grower
covering her face with her bandanna,
nauseous from whale ivory poaching.
Like a rabbit taken in by the cheek
of a landscaper in the Garden of Eden,
she clung to his every word
in a windy literary cafe.
A few sentences from his pages,
and she could breathe a few more days.
Or was it his eyebrows?
Two sickles cutting
the world into diamond slices,
as he absorbed its rhythms.
She wanted to become a compact cloud,
gathering enough rain every couple of days
to pour on the road he walks,
touching his feet that way.
Beating the rigor mortis
of the Great Lakes in early winter,
they bid farewell in an unremarkable hut.
She had dreams she must try to chase.
He had houses to repaint.
A box of correspondence from his forties—
birthdays, thank you notes, sympathy cards.
Toward his sixties they become less frequent.
A few near-miss romances, a career
that never did release the parking brake.
No one remembers the decade his last hair fell out.
Coming back home from a game of bocce
with other elders he still fails to chat with,
he smells one more dead mouse in his apartment.
He recalls the perfume of charred bridges:
his youthful pride, his red torero mind
dismissing people, always with good reason.
Wallpapers look like maggots. Napping in a twin bed,
he talks to his imaginary rascal son:
“What a long life I’ve lived! Don’t let your guard down.”
He takes the graveyard tours at Beacon Hill.
The buses boast, “We’ll drive you to an early grave!”
He dreams of death and at the same time wishes
that his death would have a little impact,
that someone would exclaim, “Yes, his grave was early!”
instead of shrugging, “Dying was his job.”
Tourist eyelashes all around the bus
bat themselves, impervious to his sight.
He wants a strawberry. The guide ushers him out.
Beacon Hill is more of a hill each evening.
Someday he’ll fall and break one of his hips.
Someday he’ll fall again and break the other.
On Halloween, a bloody hand hangs loose
from the balcony above his bedroom.
He wishes his own blood were still that red.
The night he walks back for the first time
not remembering his own name
his head will fill completely with traffic noise.
About Anton Yakovlev
Anton Yakovlev grew up in Moscow, Russia, but moved to the United States in 1996. He studied Filmmaking and English at Harvard University. He currently lives in Ridgewood, NJ and works as a college textbook editor.
November, Rain and Bowdoin Street appeared in The Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow #6.