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Van Wert Photos and Poems


To Angela, Who Works at Brookside

If I were to see you in public,
I would have to duck out of your sight.
You wouldn’t recognize me, of course,
Wearing clothes other than my pajamas
And without raccoon eyes of old makeup.

At night, you’re my closest friend, my confidant,
Behind the counter of the old gas station.
Always good to see you, you tell me.
Likewise, I say, forcing a smile.
Tonight, your hair is pink. Tomorrow? Who knows.

You notice I’m crying before I do.
She was a real sweet lady, you say,
Your grief as genuine as my own.
My total is three ninety-nine.
You haven’t charged me for the slushee.

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To Tyler, the Library, and the Confusion of Adolescence

The first date of my life was in the Brumback Library,
the red-roofed castle, my childhood home.
He picked me up in his mother’s Jaguar.
I, freshly sixteen, hadn’t yet learned to drive.

We started off in the children’s basement
with the mermaid painting I’d always loved.
We read a book about extra yarn,
our knees bumping into the too-short tables.

We made our way to the next floor up
and read a book on life, love, and sex.
Blushing, and unable to make eye contact,
we couldn’t fill the adult chairs either.

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To the Unnamed Eccentric and his Hoverboard

They didn’t know what to make of him
(or his hat, or his coat, or his hoverboard)
when he first arrived in Van Wert.
Whispers flew from mouth to ear to mouth–
He made a million dollars in tech,
he came to retire and try to be mayor.
Seemingly unbothered, he rolled around town,
pushing his daughter’s stroller all the while.

He bought the second-hand furniture store
and hasn’t figured out yet what it is now.
He’s filled the storefront with dragon’s skeletons,
one of them wearing a black fedora, like his.
No one knows what he’s planning with it–
maybe he doesn’t have a plan at all?
They aren’t finding out anytime soon.
No one’s talked to him; he hasn’t joined a church.

The kids in town talk if they see him,
delighted, even only for a moment,
to be in the presence of celebrity
(no matter how it had been attained).
He’ll never exactly be one of us,
but you should have heard how the townsfolk cheered
when his daughter got out of her stroller
and onto a hoverboard of her very own.

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