I’m grinning, trying to hide it with my face.
You’re, like, The Toxic Positivity Guy,
you tell me and I’m absolutely positive
that I am, hurt and smiling, even as you shrink away,
as if it pains you, you who knows me better
than anyone, to hardly know me at all.
I’m like the man I walk past days ago, chortling
smoke from his nose. Or maybe like the bird
he chases to safety across Boston
streets, yelling, Ayyy, Gobble, Gobble!
I smile as my heart races. And the people shake
their heads in their cars. I’m thinking of all the people
who’ve ever called me sweetheart. I’m trying
to be. Sweet in the heart. Sad with levity. Gratefully
unabashed. Is it possible? A boy
from your old high school died this week.
Just crossing the street. Head bowed to his
hands, eyes open and searching like any animal
that knows what will kill it is just born
from its looking. Even now, I sometimes look
to the sky, missing home like
an immigrant. How can I explain this? I am
no immigrant. But still, I can never look
to country, only to sky. I can never say I am
one thing more than the other, though
I wish to. I’m searching for something
to say about my mother and brother. For them
to help me say something to you. Maybe
it’s this: the first thing I ever learned
was that death is bad. That death is bad
and to believe it. That death is bad
until the playground calls me Osama
sticking its insides out at me, pink
and moving. I’m speaking to you like you are
the sky, like you are everyone I’ve ever loved
and missed, like you are already gone. Why?
Because I hate the dying like I hate
the children who skip nimbly from
branch to branch, baring their shiny teeth
just like me, just like that. Because when I ask
my father about the people dancing
in the streets, he explains that they are just
happy, just celebrating. Flapping their arms
as if they know that death is bad
until the dying is done. As if they know
they can’t risk flying like that.