by Keegan Lester
she says. I want to name hurricanes
after Disney characters. She says Aladdin,
Belle, Captain Hook, Daisy Duck. She says
to get hired for that job, you have to know
they alternate the sexes each hurricane.
That’s all you have to know to name
hurricanes, she says. In New York City
every year more people die from suicide
than murder & car accidents. A teen boy
climbs a rafter above the subway, shimmying
out little by little across the steel beam,
the lightning before thunder, humidity like a kiss
to his forehead after opening
an oven door, to meet a woman on the ledge
readying herself to tumble, while everyone
continues walking toward where they hope
they will arrive, looking up only to confirm
they’re not the thing about to fall or be flattened.
After placing the woman back down on Earth,
after writing his phone number down to paper,
after saying call me anytime, after saying someone
loves you, the teen vanishes, folding back into
the stomach of the city like a carnation
which are only seen on occasion that carnations
are needed. A police officer says If I’d seen the boy,
I would have given him hell for going up there &
hugging her. There are professionals trained for that, he says.
I want to change my profession to that. I want to be
a professional hugger. Maybe prosecutors are too good
at getting the death penalty. Maybe we shouldn't
trust the heart of a prison guard. We know
why the caged bird sings. We understand
self-preservation of the heart now more than ever
because the internet is teaching us empathy each day.
No matter what we do to soften a blow,
a blow is still a blow is still... I’m wading knee-deep
in forgiveness. I don’t turn my cheek anymore
because that’s some biblical 101 passive aggression.
Where can we move from here but up? says the person
misinformed about here. You never see a storm coming
until it’s coming, until the flash of white of its teeth is
grinning at you, you the kite connected to twine,
dancing in the storm, dancing in wind to avoid the debris.
Onlookers won’t be able to tell if it’s you
dancing or if what connects you to the Earth is
rattling you thin & tired, as you hold on.
So keep them guessing. Hope someone may see you
& then someday that they too may dance for another.
Keegan Lester is a writer living in New York City. His work has been published in The Journal, The Boston Review, Poem A Day, The Adroit Journal and BOAAT among others, and is being anthologized in Bettering American Poetry. His first collection of poetry this shouldn't be beautiful but it was and it was all he had so he drew it was selected by Mary Ruefle for the 2016 Slope Editions Book Prize. He loves listening to the rain.