Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
These United States
We met in Providence, Rhode Island. Our country’s
smallest state. Its motto is just one word: Hope.
At first, you lived in Chicago, where I’d visit and eat
breakfast out of a cast iron skillet every morning, and
I lived in New York City, where you’d eventually move
three weeks after the towers were knocked down.
New York City was our base for eight years, where
the dotted lines of our travels originated and where
they ended: Austin, where our friends bribed us
with beer and queso; Charlotte, where the BBQ
was so good, we high-fived each other, our mouths
too full to form words; New Orleans, where our friends
married the day after you ate your first crawdaddy;
San Francisco, where we slept in a room with an iguana
and ate cheap burritos fat as puppies; Columbus, where
your brother lives; Florida, where your parents live; LA,
where we sat next to the hot tub our friends were in because
it never occurred to us to pack swimsuits in the winter.
In between it all, we lived Astoria, Queens, sleeping on a bed
a friend of a friend was just going to throw out anyway,
commuting forty-five minutes on the subway each direction
just so that we’d have an excuse not to see anyone else
on the weekends. This is where we spent the earliest years
of us, where we built our first small home, crammed it
with all that laughter. When we finally left, our friends threw
us a party and we smashed piñatas shaped like Death Stars.
Almost nine years earlier to the day, on a Greyhound bus
we rode through Canada, we saw a entire flock of shooting
stars through the scratched plexiglass windows
and we made wishes. We were so new back then.
We couldn’t see the mountains. We could only see
the darkness where they blocked out the sky.
An Unintentional Metaphor For What Happened Next
I searched the word fireworks
hoping to send you a picture
of the brightest, the most celebratory.
But instead, all of the images
that came up were photographs
of mangled hands.
The way I laughed: too loud and at my own jokes.
The way I never washed my hair. The way I pushed
my food onto my fork with my fingers, just like a lady
wouldn’t. How I loved you, stupidly, despite every signal.
How your lips looked. How your hands were so large
and still. How the hair on your neck let me touch it
sometimes. How you would laugh, despite yourself.
And I would throw my whole body to ground to catch it.
How I laughed: loud and sudden, a firecracker startling
your terrier of a heart. How I laughed at everything:
the waitresses, the weather, the way dogs walk so certain
of their happiness. How I laughed even when it hurt,
even when it wasn’t funny.
CRISTIN O’KEEFE APTOWICZ is a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Poetry. Her work has published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendancies, Rattle, PANK, Barrelhouse, Monkeybicycle, decomP, Conduit, and La Petite Zine, among others. She is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Everything is Everything (Write Bloody Publishing, 2010), as well as the nonfiction book, Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam (Soft Skull Press). She just finished serving a yearlong term as the 2010-2011 ArtsEdge Writer-In-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, where she spent the year researching and writing about 19th century medical oddities. For more information, please visit her website at: www.aptowicz.com.
Return to January 2012 Edition