If I Am Then I Must Be Now 

by Andrew Romanelli

I would see him as remembrance of a later self
among the young mothers in privet-choked
waiting rooms—squares writing in circles,
absconding the blue lines of dime-store composition books,
scribbling contagious in the rose stare of conjunctivitis.

He would walk out with the intent to purchase air
in the newspaper-bestrewn, coffin-shaped courtyards,
while Betty Ford drifters in pigeoney car coats
strung along children in gold paper crowns,
humming forgotten cartoon songs coded in omniscience.

               In a small globe our bitty dreams are shaken up.
               You will feel so low that when you reach up,
               you’ll touch the bottom.

As kids we flexed whole ribs under faded, soft-spun
cotton tees that would billow out around us in a jaunt
from a Walgreens where packs of Blacks get glommed
and hawked to them lungers on Lake Mead Boulevard.

In that same stretch come sundown, when the good people
pushed dented, neurotic metal carts into bustling
grocery stores—we would hold up lines with loose,
crinkly, food stamp dollars—dirty faces drawn sad,
aiming down our own noses at empathy around.

I would steal books from bookstores, read them
then sell them to secondhand bookstores.

Now, I cover the emptiness with each of my fingers,
roll snake-eyes into the soft click of a rust-jacked wall.

There was promise in our textbooks and afternoon television,
cereal bowls full of puffy charms, soggy dreams…
They might as well be the green new vogue.
               If we ever had anything at all, tell me about it in a joke.

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