Maybe you won every battle
but the last. Maybe you didn’t
fight at all. In the end
you found a warm spot by the window
where you could nurse your coffee
the whole working day.
When the bad thoughts come,
My shrink tells me,
Cross the street.
My brother insists he has nothing
Left to live for.
My mom has a new friend.
Without dad, my sister says,
We are the only family left.
The books and the weather are gone,
The pains and the cures.
Each classroom, bedroom, office
Silent as a map.
The hospital room tableaux
Left harmless as holes in the wall
Made by somebody who used to be
From their starting place on the toilet seat
the speck of lint and the tiny fruit fly
(if that’s what it is—some minute bug)
cannot be told apart. But as they move
toward the abyss, the path they describe—
puff of air, careful hop—is the only thing that’s real.
The shards of glass have no choice
vis a vis my bare feet.
When the bottle broke
they just landed that way.
As for you, you’re too anxious
to break in your new boots.
You have to keep going
until the blisters burst.
Comfort Inn, Omaha or Oklahoma City
Maybe I’ll spend a few days in this motel
trying to figure things out.
I emptied the cartop carrier,
clothes still wet from the storm in South Dakota.
Checked out the gym down the hall,
treadmill and bike, Texas Hold ‘Em on tv.
There’s a Red Lobster across the parking lot,
down the frontage road a Superstore.
I can buy a pair of sunglasses, a new phone.
I’ve got a coffee-maker and two queens.
I left myself some time. Probably not enough.
Jeffrey Thompson grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, before it became a watchword for cool. He was educated at the University of Iowa and Cornell Law School and lives in Phoenix, where he practices public interest law. His work has appeared or will appear in journals including Passengers, North Dakota Quarterly, The Main Street Rag, FERAL, Unbroken, On the Seawall, The Tusculum Review, Burningword Literary Journal, ONE ART, Maudlin House, and Trampoline. His hobbies include reading, hiking, photography, listening to Leonard Cohen, and doom-scrolling the ruins of Twitter.