by Devin Kelly
We Become Who We Are As We Become Who We Are
I lost what could have become important
before it became important—a grandfather
when I wasn’t alive, another when I was 7.
I lost years of my mother’s hands. I lost
something about my father that made her
want to marry him. I lost the leaf of a fiddle
leaf fig. & another. & another. I lost someone
once, because I wanted to be someone who
had lost someone else. I lost each evening
I forgot to watch the last butterscotch light
become something else I lost. I lost the song
a mourning dove sings, until I remembered,
& I have lost everything I forgot. I lost a part
of my body once. It just fell out. It’s somewhere
else now. I can’t keep the whole world in a jar.
I’d lose the jar. Quick. Quicker now. There’s
a square of light moving across the room.
Let it warm your face before we lose this life.
Sunday at the Laundromat
I’m good at putting quarters in the washing machine.
I make a stack atop the steel & slip the coins from one
hand to another.
I walk away the moment the machine begins to turn.
I drink a beer next door & think about my life.
I want to say the world turns like dirty clothes
around a center, but really the world turns whether
we learn to call anything dirty or not.
Most days, I am scared of loss.
I know I will miss loading someone else’s
underwear into a washer if I ever find myself alone.
The other day, a friend journeyed to his old apartment
to scavenge his last books. The other day, I watched
a dog greet its dog-park-friend by leaping like a demon—
a good one, so beautiful—upon its shoulders.
I love a perfect hug after a too-long time apart.
I love plants that raise their leaves just moments
after being watered. I love how,
if you turn anything towards light,
you might save its life.
There’s something perfect about the warmth of dry clothes.
I want to pile them in a pile, jump together into them.
I remember rain by what it leaves behind:
water on the sidewalks, muddy puddles by the trees.
The world reminds us of everything we might forget.
It says: everything clean must be dirtied again.
It says: you can’t be perfect; don’t try.
It says something about the light
not being able to choose its object.
Devin Gael Kelly is a writer and high school teacher living in New York City. His work has appeared in Longreads, The Guardian, LitHub, DIAGRAM, Hobart, Redivider, and more.