“Echo” by Michael Juliani

Reading by the author

When I realize it’s just my mother
uncoiling the garden hose in the shed
I put down the phone. Just her,
cleaning her feet before leaving
the tomatoes to grow. I thought I heard
my father in her steps, tiptoeing over rakes,
sprinkler heads, tripping some booby trap
in my gut. All this proximity is too much
to admit I missed you. The L.A. Times
sits unfolded on our kitchen table,
gingko leaves packed into the quarter moons
carved sideways into the shutters
of my upstairs window. My grandmother
can barely stand, her knees buckled
like a foal’s. Before the television,
she sits while sickles loom in her irises
and by herself, she seethes like a debutante.
We watched the Lakers come back
twenty points last night, vanquishing the Pelicans
of New Orleans, a franchise the announcers
predicted will not survive
the next ten years. A helicopter swivels
in the sky above my mother,
searching for a suspect that fits
a crude description. When I was fourteen,
years after my father left, my friends and I
hopped the fence at Holy Family Church
to ride sacks of ice down the slick
grass of a replica Calvary hill.
I went so fast in the dark, I forgot
any reason I had to live, and love
was a dream I’d broken into separate
battles, deciding that he was the one
I would echo against.

Michael Juliani is a poet, editor, and writer from Pasadena, California. His poetry manuscript, The World Is Not Astonished, was named a finalist for the 2021 Jake Adam York Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in outlets such as Bennington Review, Sixth Finch, Epiphany, Tammy, CutBank, Prelude, Pigeon Pages, NECK, Washington Square Review, and the Los Angeles Times. Currently, he is a member of the poetry committee for the PEN America Prison Writing Program. He has an M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University and lives in Los Angeles.

Image: “Basement Lighting (Photo Experiment)” by Alex J. Tunney

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