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Gatsby / 51mm

By Dylan R. Ragas, Crimson Staff Writer

Gatsby

To see dawn’s red face, angry against a brooding
horizon. Your dowdy eyes, your tears: pearly,
lactic. Two fingers pressed to the roof
of your mouth, the prickle and the purge. I slice
oranges one after the other and barely glean
the juice from each half. Blade and butcher’s block, carrot fingers.
To cut the kitchen knife like the rest of them.

And I, I tell you—the panic like static, white noise
filling the jester’s box in my collarbone. The parking lot
outside the stir-fry joint where I cried thinking of nooses
and my friends fought fifteen feet away about their breaking
relationship. I’ve seen love shatter before it was built (a tale fed to me
like milk). I’ve seen the credits of the ballet roll and not worked up
a single tear. The terminally ill patient and the dying dog.
Double-o-seven. And I’ll cuff you over the ear, if you give me
a shot. Stand within range. Put down the niceties
and metric-measured tonalities and say it:
I never loved you. How could I?

51mm

I.
In the night the dog’s run turns violent. Knife-
clang, too close to my throat. Light wedging in
with a dull ache, pressure on a bruise. I pant
and I can hear it. I hurt and and I can see it, the wound
eating me up, corroded, wadded and thrown away.
Oh, to be away. The only place to breathe
and yet where is air?

II.
Time fades in again, slowly and with
hesitation. A bird learns how to beat wings
in early hours. I do not message you.
My hands, clumsy and sure like a toddler,
grasping refrigerator magnets.
Dog, mailman, shovel, ladybug. Garden
outside. Cool kitchen air. Lemonade—
always a disappointment. And there you were,
peeking from the stairway cupboard and
hiding under the hem of the tablemat. Ménage
à trois—although you were young, you couldn’t
possibly have meant it like that.

III.
The girls sit clustered in the house with the siding. They know
each others’ faces, names. They say nothing—
they pine.

IV.
I know the spaces you move through. How you speak,
at what cadence. With time I can feel my skin,
again, it accepts moisture like dried pavement does
rain. With time your mirage fades and I breathe,
again, I return finally from the burning house with smoke
in my lungs but they tell me there is fresh air all around.

V.
One day in the linoleum bathroom fluorescent light strokes my face
like a wavering finger. I remember, finally, that french song
sung by that french man on the trail leading back
from Monet’s house, all those years ago. I cup my chin
in my own palm, slow dance across grimy tile, brush my face
away from its reflection. One step, two, while I still
remember. La vie en rose. Tomorrow, she might be gone.
The girl who never could be a girl, never really. An arm raised,
a twirl. And if I wake up in the morning and she’s nowhere
to be found, she was here, for a moment, the unretouched portrait
of the girl who pulled me closer, held me fast.

—Dylan R. Ragas ’26’s column, “Yard Sale Organs,” is a collection of poems that attempt to make sense of a past—real, imagined, but mostly somewhere in between.

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