by Jennifer Maloney
Commutation It’s nine AM, I’m driving east, the sun’s a bleary, peering eye, red as a drunk’s. Clouds sulk like bored teenagers, toss their heads and heave dramatic sighs, strew golden leaves and garbage in my road. I’m heading home, at least I think I am, was going to, am meaning to, when David Byrne starts singing and I start to fall in love with the buildings and the highway, the scattered trash, the path of leaves. With the sound of my own voice and the way I can hear it, alone in the car, how it hums like my engine, steady and plain. Time to banish the bullshit, says my voice, says me, says the speaking marrow of my bones. The clock will hold its hands for you no more. I want to live at the top of my lungs, but I’m still just singing out the window. I keep living through all these little deaths, but the skeleton inside me wants to dance. There is always a chance. I might miss the exit. I might drive past the house and not see it. Time to banish the bullshit, tires hiss in the rain. Time to hold your own hands, and let go. Indigestion I wish you’d stop showing up in my dreams; my ex, a glob of mustard. All thanks due to Mr. Dickens, I’m not the one whose bad behavior makes them a candidate for haunting. Here you are again, so tall I have to lift my head and keep on going for awhile. And that smile! I guess in this dream, you’ve forgotten you don’t like me anymore. Don’t fight your demons, your demons are here to teach you lessons, says Bukowski the drunk, the misogynist, but if anyone ever needed a punch in the nose, it was probably him. Or you. I want to stop pretending that poetry isn’t fiction, that short stories aren’t poetry, and that your name isn’t stuck between my teeth like an underdone potato. Or a line from Frost: Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and—is this wall built from stones or stars? And does it matter? When either one’s as likely as the other to fall?
Jennifer Maloney is a writer based in Rochester, NY. She is the co-editor of Moving Images: Poetry Inspired by Film (Before Your Quiet Eyes Publishing, 2021). Find her poetry and fiction in Panoply Zine, Ghost City Press, Litro Magazine, and many other literary magazines and journals. Jennifer is a parent, a partner, and a very lucky friend, and she remains grateful, for all of it, every day.