Poetry

“Then and Now” by Stephen Furlong

For Jimmy and Mikey

***

Here we are. All in the family room, we haven’t all been together,
for a couple of years now. That’s the problem with different states,
lives, and partners who tug and pull like a child running with a kite.
They just want to run with their something happy, and always searching
for the right wind. In this house, there are still wide-open windows exposing
light into the darkest corners. Shadows huddle near the corner of my vision,
shaking—I am crying nervously, trying to ensure the world doesn’t crack.
My words shake like the barren trees in my parent’s front yard. Street lights bow
their heads like a child seeking forgiveness.

***

I’m thinking of Turner’s 1842 War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet, and its blood-
red sunset encloses a soldier; it’s unknown whose side he takes.
Napoleon stands in the middle, arms folded, facing the sea
of defeat, widespread, it will become his legacy.

***

I see my older sister telling me
I think sometimes you get stuck in your head—So what if I do
get stuck in the labyrinth, these blueprints of memory all come back
to this house; my childhood bedroom is now a guest
room, meant for my love and I, when we are in town for our visits.
There’s a touch of my childhood here on the wall, a chalkboard square
where I, most recently, left a line from Kyle Dargan:
I will remember this years later as one of the good days. And I hope that’s true.

***

Because I’ve been carrying this weight upon my shoulder,
I tell my therapist it’s like a backpack, there are pockets I still have to explore.
Undoing the clasp, I see my brother’s eyes—
I think of Pearl Jam’s “Off He Goes”
from their 1996 album No Code—Seems my preconceptions
are what should have been burned
plays itself a loop.

***

Circular, my memories play a scene
from my youth; we are playing football on Memorial Day
and I’m the youngest, but I hold my own. My cousin’s hands are bigger
than the laces, but he slings a pass my way, an Out route, five yards deep
toward the chain link, away from the first down. I get up, smiling,
because I held onto the football, but head is throbbing, warm blood
dripping onto my neck, staining my jersey, but not the memory.

***

No.
This memory is about love; my brother comes to my defense, stands between me
and the guy who made the tackle. No harm was intended, but I’m still bleeding.
I’ve been meaning to write this poem for years, but questions bloomed
in my head, like the oval stage of a dandelion, pulled from the soil
of my brain, only to be blown, scattered—

 

 

Stephen Furlong received his M.A. in Professional Writing from Southeast Missouri State University. He is the author of the chapbook What Loss Taught Me, which was published by Nostrovia! Press. His poems, interviews, and book reviews have appeared in Yes Poetry, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Bone & Ink, among others. He currently serves as a staff reviewer for LitStyle, a subset of the literary journal Five:2:One. He can be found on Twitter @StephenJFurlong.

 

 


Photo: “Out of site” by Yousef Abdelmagid