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two poems

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.


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