poetry from the dining hall / an ode to my temporary housing
woken by the chill
autumn breathes on my neck,
a lover arriving just in time
prepare silently for the day,
feet on dusty hardwood
our big, empty house
is quiet and cold
I have let myself get distracted
by the loudness of it all
up late the night before,
reveling in the warmth of lamplight
imagine my roommate
warm and asleep
behind her closed door
leave the key on the railing
shut the door behind
off to live my life
but I pause
to watch the fog gathered low
clinging to the mountains
like ceran wrap left by a stranger
in our cabinets
breathe it in
the first gray day
I will never have it back
can only cradle
my gilded memories
One of my best friends has a 1973 Pontiac Firebird.
For as long as I've known him, he's been a classic car fanatic. Knows more about cars than anything I know. For holidays we buy each other matchbox cars, and possibly the most daunting part about moving to college is choosing which cars I want to bring with me. It's his birthday today, actually.
Junior year was when he started searching harder for a car — it was the year we got our licenses, after all, and for him I think it was a sign that everything would open up. Actually buying that muscle car — feeling the steering wheel under his hands — would cement for him that life would get better after high school. I thought of him going out west, flying down into the sunset in some decade-bending teenage cowboy tribute to Cannonball Run. He shopped around for a bit — sent me pictures and videos of cars all different colors, white and red and black and gray.
Then, finally, the summer before our senior year. He chose a car from New York state: a blue 1973 Pontiac Firebird, two white stripes down the hood, white interior. He named the car Bluebird. He has a matching baseball cap. Bluebird is his baby.
I got to see it before anybody else. It was a late summer day, August sucking the life out of all the trees. The garage air was thick and saturated with the smell of gasoline. Bluebird took up space in both a literal and metaphorical way, tangible in a new and dazzling sense. Under my hand it was solid and comforting, not thin like my humble (but worshiped) 2002 VW Passat. My friend pulled open the door and let me sit. It was sort of like entering Wonderland; the world got so much bigger, and I got so much smaller, dropping into those beat-up white leather seats.
Now, I did ask permission to write this piece. The caveat, my friend said, was that he wanted me to say how many times this car has broken down on him. And I would be such a liar if I didn't report that (although I’m bad with the specifics). The first time he took Bluebird out, it was leaking gas all over the road — one of the problems I remembered (without asking him) was that there was a hole in the gas tank. He’s taken it for a few other spins. Most of those ended with a dead battery and a call to AAA. He had to wait a year to get it to a mechanic, and it took up all the free space in his mind. I introduced him to another friend of mine, and the two of them took up the free space in my mind talking nonstop about their cars that they were fixing up.
I had an image of Bluebird fitting flawlessly into our senior year, as I think my friend did. I thought he'd become a legend in that thing, cruising around our small town, pulling us up to prom like a couple of movie stars. We never really got that, but the 20 minutes I have gotten make up for that.
He always told me I would be the first person he drove in that car. And he kept his promise, texting me the day after graduation, to let me know that it was time. I wanted to write about how difficult springtime had been for me. We had undergone so many big changes — we’d just graduated high school, I turned 18 about ten days before. For the entire month of June I had been wasting away as I fell for a girl who hardly gave me the time of day. Earlier that morning we had dropped my grandma off at the airport, and now there was nothing to distract me.
And then came the text from my dear friend.
The garage door opened, and it was just as it was a year ago, when I got to see the car for the first time. This hulking, beautiful, powerful machine. I excitedly slid into the seat, rolled down the window, discovered there was no working seatbelt. He revved up the engine. Slowly, energy and excitement fizzing around, he began to back out the driveway, me craning my head to see the best I could if he was going to hit the curb.
And then we were off. I had been nervous that the car would break down, but those worries quickly dissipated as he maneuvered the car around construction and we went up to a circular neighborhood (one of suburban condo hotspots). I couldn’t help but laugh out loud; my mom had no idea I was being driven around in a muscle car, playing the Beatles from my phone, the wind in my hair. To this day, it is one of my most fond memories. I can’t imagine the triumph I assume my friend felt as we drove around.
He took me home after in his normal boring modern car and I expected it to be somewhat anticlimactic, but the feeling stayed. That buzzing joy of riding in his 1973 Pontiac Firebird.
It’s been hard for me to write this piece. The only thing, it seems, that has gotten me out of that rut is the song anything by Adrianne Lenker, and the swell of love for my friend that I get every time I saw this challenge. It’s his car, but he’s my friend, and I think the two are inevitably linked. I’m submitting this largely unedited. It is all from the heart, from the mind.
his hand on my shoulder
flowers flop in my fist
"c'mon, let's go," he says
and I feel it start in my chest
jittering, crackling, burning
nausea settles heavy
tell him it's okay — it’s too late to escape
let him pull me along
pretend that it's her
pretend I belong
my body is screaming
that the walls are closing in
short of breath, sweaty palms
go to the bathroom
cold water on my wrists
bring myself back
shudder and shake off the ghost of his touch
I don't think I ever posted this piece -- I just discovered it in my notes app and wanted to post for posterity. I have so much nostalgia and grief for last summer. I love to write about time, and the seasons, and I wish I could comfort my younger self and tell her that she will look back on it with a certain amount of disdain but also relief that it's over now. I want to tell her that it's over now.
That night — when I first lay
with my face close to femininity —
was at the beginning of June. Yet
May haunts me, with its soft breeze and
unerring greenness. I was still gentle.
I never asked
for any of it
and you are so free
I went to Virginia
saw the sky
then realized how much healing
was left to do
"and no, I'm not angry, / I think that I'm just feeling sore / 'cause the truth is that you just don't like me that much anymore"
I Just Don't Think That You Like Me That Much Anymore - Leith Ross
I guess it's just that I wanted you. I wanted you so bad I thought I would cry from the feeling. It was a weird juxtaposition -- sitting in your humid room, making small talk, listening to the a.c. hum -- but inside I was dying.
I guess it's just that I wanted you. I don't want people. I don't think I've ever wanted anyone. But I wanted you.
Not just for the touch, of course. I wanted to go to the farmer's market with you. I wanted to share an umbrella and buy a big container of strawberries. I wanted to have a little life with you for the three months we were blessed with. I wanted to fall asleep on your shoulder as our friends began to leave the party. I wanted you to be my person, the one I was always with, the one who got in the car no matter where we were going. I wanted you to tell me I was beautiful. I wanted to eat family dinner at your house, and help you walk your dog, to play music with your dad, to listen to all your favorite songs. I wanted to go to museums. I wanted to hold your hand.
I wanted someone to want me. Willingly, earnestly, with a pink blush intensity -- all consuming and beautiful -- and I thought you did. Wanted me, that is. I'm not sure why I thought that, though. I spent half the time begging for your attention, and the other half crying that you wouldn't see me. Leaving split my chest in two. I honestly hope you don't care. It would help it all make sense a bit more.
The day after the breakup (can I even call it that? We were hardly together) I went with my photography class to Coney Island and saw the ocean and thought I would drown in the sheer vastness of it. It was so hot that I could watch the sunburn spread across my arms. I wanted to bottle that day. I wanted to breathe the sea air for every second of the rest of my life. I thought I could live on that boardwalk forever, above one of the little stores, and never go anywhere else.
I wonder if you'll ever get your disposable camera developed. We both bought one. I took all those pictures of you, and I think there might be a couple of me on yours. If you do get it developed -- a few years down the line, maybe at your college darkroom -- and it brings you back to that beautiful April evening, send the pictures to me. I would give anything to go back there, to watch you laugh and eat ice cream in an empty Chelsea Market; when we only just started to run out of time; before I fell for you.
they say that hair holds memories
well, you cut all yours away
our friends crowded in your green tile bathroom,
taking turns snipping the strands,
letting them fall
letting me go
i was over the atlantic somewhere
when i stopped fitting in your hands,
and your heart, and your hair
we made eye contact at the carnival
you are so tan, and your eyes are so blue
the connection lasts a breath, yet i ache --
i hardly recognize you
A quick piece just to say — I’ve been on this site for 4 years now, since I was a freshman in high school. Prose was the escape I needed during covid. It was a safe place for me to put my writing; it was a safe place for me to grow up.
I turned 18 today. I’m lying in my room, listening to the mourning doves, trying to comprehend how lucky I am to have reached this milestone. Thank you, Prose, for being a site that challenged me, inspired me, etc. I haven’t been on here consistently in a while but I’ve never forgotten this place.
"In accordance with Henry Edward, angry people are "slaves to themselves""
I am angry. I hold it in my throat -- sometimes it escapes at the wrong times, earning me a weird look, or "your personality is so different from how you dress."
because I am sweet! and kind! I am gentle! I am lovely! I am 5 feet tall and I have the tiniest hands and I tremble when I lift a 2 pound weight. But after the lingering fear passes, I feel rage. I feel like, yeah, today is the day that I snap.
It never is. The day that I snap, I mean. I walk away and usually wish that I could extract my rage and just feel the sadness I'm hiding from. I've been feeling it recently, honestly. I'm sad that I feel so angry. I'm sad that I forgot
what it means to be a good person. I spend so much time thinking about people I don't like. I concoct fruitless revenge schemes, that exist mostly for my best friend to laugh at. I can't stop yelling when I'm behind the wheel.
The thing is, though, that I love so deeply it makes me cry most of the time. One of my oldest friends was just the lead in our school play, and I teared up all throughout the bows. She was the happiest I've ever seen her in a long time. I'd give a ride to anyone who asked. I'd bring soup for anyone who was sick. What do I do with that?
How can I be so angry at the world and yet want to cup all my friends' hearts in my hands like little birds? How can I lust for a fight, yet simply ache to lie down in someone's arms? I want to let down my guard. But I'm too scared to. I'm too angry to.
A Golem Story
The Golem isn’t used to these frantic, human affairs.
The train seat is not comfortable nor plush, not like the armchair in Chaya’s living room. It smushes the Golem together — their thighs press firmly against one another, and their arms take up the whole armrest. The train is not moving, but the lights flicker.
And, despite the many layers the Golem has been squeezed into (long socks, long pants, a stiff button-down, gloves, an old hat), they are cold. They have been cold since they came to life in a back Prague alleyway a month ago.
When they were awake enough to comprehend the fact that they were alive, they were propped up in the dining room with body form uncovered. Chaya was pacing in front of them, shaking her hands frantically. Little bits of clay kept flying off her fingers — little bits of proof.
The Golem felt something stirring in the front of their skull. They pinched the bridge of their nose, squinted their eyes shut; then they realized it was Chaya. The Golem could feel every bit of her racing-heart, short-breath panic.
Through the train window, the Golem can see the city. It rises like a sloping mountain. Orange sunset spills across the roofs, and harsh red flags stick out against the skyline. This flag has ruined the city. Blood seeps from the fabric to settle between the cobblestones. The air tastes sour, and people exhale vitriol.
At least, that’s what the Golem had been told. Later on the evening of their creation, Chaya sat down with them at the kitchen table. She got drunk on hard cider and told a winding tale of a dictator, a race of demon people, and a beautiful land which had been cut up and sacrificed. In her stupor, she spoke of it all like a fantastical nightmare. But when the moon turned the cobblestones to silver, and she was so tired that the Golem carried her up to bed, Chaya cried that she watched her people be picked off one by one.
After that, the Golem understood that the girl in their arms thought herself to be powerless. But they didn’t understand how she could find the guts to bring a myth to life if she thought so little of herself.
Chaya settles in the train window seat. She has wrangled her curls inside a thick, heavy bun. She continues to very purposefully not look out the window. Instead, she studies the ID card she had doctored for the Golem. Here, on this train, they are Josef Baum, Chaya’s cousin on her mother’s side.
The conductor comes into their car. The Golem’s head flutters as Chaya gives a sharp exhale. She whips around to watch the man as he meanders down the aisle, lazily asking for papers.
i vow to forget her -- starting tomorrow
Last week; I was in the imagined interior of some East Village bar -- a small brick building with a pride flag hanging cheerfully on the front. I've never been there. My ex slid off her barstool to meet me halfway. I don't remember what we said, but she cried, her red hair falling around her pale cheeks with a certain quiet desperation. I woke up with a wet face.