living at Five-Forty now,

but when I dole out the queso

into my mother’s new porcelain bowl

I recall that moment, half a year ago

arguing in circles, he always did 

the toaster oven ringing, the queso ready

but my appetite is vanished

and he’s glaring at me from across the room

so I’ll scrape the dish clean

so I’ll throw away our food

retreating into the darkness of the bedroom

imagining what it would be like to leave


we’re going out tomorrow

and I want to wear a dress

if only to memorize your reaction

I’ve never shown you so much skin

but I’ve wanted to often

(just let that sink in)

if I told you our meetings remade this city

remade this city, erasing four months’ despair

from my mind, you’d know exactly what I mean

once a week, we are desensitizing


I’m living at Five-Forty now

just another thing he didn’t tell his mother

when she heard I’d left her baby boy

she used the phrase

we all thought you were perfect for him!

I appreciate how she included the entire family

in a single word, she had more to say than he

I tried, but no one wants to hear that side

she stopped signing her texts with heart emojis

and she asked, all worried, if I brought my fish—

as if I’d ever abandon the innocent 


at Five-Forty, I surveyed the land

I counted all the tree frogs

and I told you exactly where to find them

when it rains, they climb from the tree holes

they stick to the siding, to the windows

it’s what I miss most, I said months ago

more than once, your expression conveyed what I couldn’t

why don’t you do what would make you happy?

how many times we had that conversation

at shift change, how many times I sighed

left the station, left you, to return home

a supposed life partner passed out

smelling sour, snoring

on the couch, the kitchen floor, the bedroom

but those tree frogs, how I waited for them then

weather prying the heavens wide open 

sobbing in the shower, thundering outside 

those windows were always empty


more than once, I’ve met you in that parking lot

but last night, a car door between us

how clear you seemed, how apparent

I wanted to say you’ve been in my dreams

and has anyone ever told you

they dreamt of meeting your mother

of getting along so well with your older sister

we keep talking, just the two of us, at a picnic table?

I wanted to say you’ve been in my dreams

and sometimes it’s sexy (you know what I mean)

maybe that’s why you appear so clean

an image my imagination could never perfect

all this I would have eventually said

(your eyes are so distracting, don’t hold me to it)

but the supervisor phoned me then

shipped me off to the countryside

maybe he noticed what you did the other day

from you, I haven’t learned how to walk away


if my buckets of water bother my father

he keeps it to himself, drinking coffee I made

still one of my favorite morning rituals

and if it bothers my mother,

how I carry gallons and gallons across the house

potential spills, potential upsets

she keeps it to herself, asking for a refill

I change the aquarium water on Mondays

but I do it today because you have me tomorrow

my little sister will ask where we’re going this time

saying that maybe you’ll finally let me pay for dinner

and she’ll ask after all the fishes by name

the baby mollies are getting bigger

Bacon’s fins are regrowing

and Muffin’s still pining after him

staring out the glass wall, hovering

in the bottom left corner, where they met

at the start of his quarantine, his recovery

all my fishes survived the journey to Five-Forty 

in this, they clearly weren’t alone


later, I’ll take the puppy for a walk

and with our eyes trained on the ground

I’ll point out the budding plants under the leaves

green incisors poking through rich earth

soon, I’ll be leaving to work in the field

but I kinda like it out here, showing the beagle

each new lichen blooming on the maples

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