My lips cannot begin to list
the legacies left by dead men
or the lives lent to that lengthy highway
we call history.
Truthfully, I don’t care–I’m just trying to make it
at mile-marker twenty-one,
and, truthfully, of that sum
you won’t find a landmark.
If my words were building materials
I would construct cities of glass where the sun never sets.
If my words were found in the wild they would drip
like dew from leaves,
running over rocks from great heights to collect in swirls
and be sucked up by green things.
If my words were infinity, I would have no need to belong to history.
If my words were anything but words,
maybe I would have arrived at my worth by now.
But my words are the murmur of a melody already sung.
Their reverb in the cathedral of my ribcage
is like the echo of a coronation choir
whose syllables I will never curl with my own tongue.
It’s been said that the mediocre writer borrows
from what has been written,
but that the great writer steals it…
so perhaps I could make history.
It’s been said the best stealing happens at 2 AM
when the world is asleep, and the creative juices have had time to steep,
so maybe I should just juice up on caffeine and steal until my fingertips bleed–
that none of the words belong to me, or that my identity camps out
like a homeless man beneath a bridge with other thieves,
to wake and walk highways to cafes in cities of other nations
whose caffeination is the achievement of 2 AM dreams
that have steeped for too long, so have to be stolen.
We’re all just trying to make history…
For twenty miles I have tried to subtract
the rubber skid-marks of right answers from the highway
as proof of a worthy existence,
ever since I was looked in the eyes as a youth
and told I could make a difference,
but the greatest Thief had stolen the truth–
and there is no rest for the deceived–
so I was destined to mark my miles
with words the world would perceive
as landmarks, but my life never seemed
to add up.
I was told as a child it was important to read history
to learn from our mistakes.
Like knowing facts
would keep my hitchhiking heart intact
or knowing when wars ended would guardrail the war starting within me–
I have written a textbook of the holocausts
of my heart I never want you to see.
But I can’t rewrite history,
so instead I write with stolen words
who I wish I could have been,
and let you read that historical fiction.
When I was eighteen and a student of story’s craft,
I was brave enough to call myself a writer.
It was no longer a hobby, or homework, or future hope–
it was time to hang my byline on billboards along the highway.
no one trusts a thief they’ve taught
and the proposals I pitched were held to the master’s mile-stick
and found wanting.
They tell me to write what I know,
so I think about going back to school to study history,
secretly wanting to be found in my own.
They tell me to write the raw truth,
but not any truth that would upend the status quo.
They tell me to find my voice,
that a strong sense of self can only forge full-throttle,
to steal what has already been written–
but be original with it–
like words are recyclable glass bottles.
I don’t remember
when I realized my glass cities would never fit
into their plastic system.
I suppose it was when he gave me bread
so I wouldn’t have to steal anymore.
When I had fractioned my soul into fourths for this faction,
like a fractal trying to fit into an octagon,
and he came to make my fractured heart whole.
It was when he built me cities of glass
where the sun never sets,
when he found my history and forgot my holocausts,
when he hung as a byword so I could have a byline.
It was when I trusted him to lead me off the highway,
south into the desert,
where he fed me manna I did not know
so I would find I don’t live by bread alone,
but by the word that comes from his mouth.
It was when, in the hot sun,
he stripped me of my snake skin
so his words would drip as dew,
running over my ridges to swirl in my soul
and be sucked up by this green heart.
It was when I saw his words were the only words
unbound by time
and believed they are the only words
that give me worth.
Last summer he told me to write my story.
To trace the tune of his words in ink
until the stains and my skin are one in the same.
If my words were anything but words
I might have made history.
But with a single word he formed my ribcage
to be the cathedral of his voice,
and I am made
for his story.