It’s all circling back to something
I can’t name – unpinnable hypnotisms,
raptures. My mother, adding salt
to the stove water to delay its boil.
When I was seven, I was left in the ball pit at IKEA
while she surveyed impossible-to-pronounce nightstands.
Now, I am seventeen and waiting patiently for her return.
Time passes and passes back. Fakes a pass, passes through
my teeth like a whistle, through my abdomen
like a pent-up ghost. It was six hours
or sixty in that ballpit, watching the Lost Boys scramble
up their sycamore and screw with Tinkerbell.
When Peter Pan ended, Dumbo clicked on.
He tripped over his ears so many times and his own mother
got hauled away in a circus carriage.
When Dumbo ended and Cinderella 2 clicked on,
I made my break for the twin bed with the mesh canopy
I’d always wanted. They found me, quilted,
asking every shopping cart are you my
I’ve invented too much
for you to tell me now
how it really was: gear teeth, car parts.
A body like oil, bellying under the front
wheel. Shimmying like a tomcat. Swagger
like a palomino. Sixteen, you shake your
grease, try your English syllables
on Sacramento, Divisadero, words once
soft as husks, maize unraveled on the fingernail’s split.
Before the tar heat, chain link, spitting
asphalt from your gums by the basketball court.
Before the busted lip, mother tongue
swollen as a burial mound.
Before she died, before your father and
your half-sister, half-brother, before
you arrived like Christ
on the weekends, shotgunned me 150
around the cul-de-sac until my basketball
sagged like loose skin. Downed a martini and
licked your wounds on the patio. I cracked my neck
upstairs and found a faded bookmark of Saint Anthony
pressed into page 57 of the Boxcar Children you’d bought
me from the yard sale..
What I’m missing now, it won’t help to find –
you seal-slicked, motor-oiled,
flinching at a closet full of belts.
Lily Goldberg is a recently legal poet and aspiring Jeopardy contestant from New York City. A graduate of the Iowa Young Writers Studio and the Adroit Journal Summer Writing Mentorship, she was a semifinalist for the 2017 Smith College Poetry Prize and received Third Prize in the City University of New York High School Poetry Prize. When she's not writing, you can find her watching videos of baby goats, practicing guitar, or wondering whether or not she has what it takes to become America's Next Top Model.