txt me im board

txt me im board

I monitor my nephew’s Instagram
Call it Being responsible Say His
best interest
Never Stalking
Not Invasion Not Spying Not really
Nearly every picture A selfie
Him 12 Slumped Staring
Rilly board txt me And he
looks bored too That teenage look
Set mouth Hard eyes
Fending off Girding for battle
It breaks my heart
Him practicing this
His trying it on

                                    Today I watch
from 30,000 feet thanks to
Gogo Inflight Internet and Allstate Insurance
30 minutes free in exchange
for my email and phone number
That’s not really me I think
and hit Agree Nick
he likes to go by now But I
still call him Nicholas He is
board just chillin in the basement
what sometimes he calls
his man cave and I could
contact him from here The Sky
But he doesn’t mean me He wants
his friends My bros My boys
and soon enough probably
Girls One already leaves
UR a babe so hot Others
Heart it for Like So now
they are practicing that too
and you can see the need
to monitor words not meant
for me He wants to talk
to ones who are bored
And me I am not bored I am
flying A window seat Country
unrolling slow below

                                          I am flying
east From San Francisco
Where I spent the week reading
with the same three poets every night
Every night we read together
Every night we said our words
It moved me Our time together
What they dared to say
Because of them I grew less afraid
Let me call them by their names
Roger Reeves Matt Hart Phillip B Williams
What a sausage-fest I thought at first
But seven nights I heard
their words From that
I came to love them

                                             The man
in the middle though is frightened
He is rocking Sweating A stranger
I left A stranger I return
he prays
hands cupped before his eyes
The flight attendant gives him water
Just think of the air as an ocean
And the turbulence that’s just waves

But it doesn’t help He is
rocking still Sweating still
Is praying Is nervous Not me
I am flying And when flying
I pull on my I’m not angry
I’m not brown
face as soon
as I enter the airport Pull on my
Trust me I’m really a woman face
Wear it the flying day through
My wrists might get swiped
Upper arms patted But not
All of me Not pulled aside
Not stripped Hair never
fingered I may be a girl
who looks like a boy
but bathrooms in the air
aren’t sexed yet Up Here
I don’t look Dangerous

                                          Since Nicholas
was young he has always loved games
Monopoly Uno The little kid versions
But even more so Talking Games
I Spy What Begins With
I’m Going On A Picnic
His favorite for a while
we invented one day
Bored Raining Took turns asking
What Would You Save
From This Burning Room

His first answers always toys
Thomas SpongeBob My cat
Murphy the first living thing
he ever named 5 maybe
And I thought One day
he will become some sort of man
What do you think Murphy would save
I asked Gravely he nodded
Murphy would save me

                                           I turn
to the window Pop in earbuds A woman
sings to the sound of racking shotguns
Below me Everything has gone
Ice and Hard only Rock and Hard
Colorado maybe Maybe Nevada
One time Something licked a mountain
up here Someone once was the first
to cross it Someone first to see it
from above Now in that mountain
Young men and women sit
locked inside Staring at screens
Where they must see what I see now
Road and Stone Scrub and Stone
Every thing a thing People
just assumed And the young
Men and Women (soldiers I guess)
toggle sticks and switches
trying to kill people who aren’t
at that same moment
actively trying to kill them
War now War then War here
More war there War hippies
in San Francisco used to say
is not healthy for children
and other living things

used to tell me I think I’ll serve
my country by being helpful
Pick up litter maybe Maybe
pet shelter dogs
But now he posts logos
Army Strong The Few The Proud
to his Instagram His social studies teacher
told the class My first time
you would hear the bombs
before you saw them
(and here
Nicholas traces an arc through the air
while he whistles a dying whistle)
But the next time through
it was all IEDs
His social studies teacher
told the class They ought to let me
first on the plane because
I teach you monkeys Not
because I got sent to war

In my earbuds the woman sings
an AK sound Makes melody
from its blat blat blat

                                             Our last evening
together Matt Hart announced So far
I’ve cried three times today Once
at the ocean Once during the reading
Just now standing at the bar

Down below the mountains have stopped
The Earth has gone flat
Giant circles Patchwork farmland
Food in America Visible from above
Allergies I explain to the man in the middle
as I decline the offered peanuts He shrugs
If God has written “You will die in a desert”
It is in the desert you will die

He keeps his eyes out the window
Seems to be feeling better Everyone
is sleeping reading snacking watching football
What can’t you do from the sky these days
It is quiet in here Surely outside
we must be loud Clouds look
full fluffy bitable Surely
they must not be

                                    Before I left
I told Nicholas about Murphy
How she went out late one night
and never came back home
No sign of a scuffle I never
heard a sound He sighed heavy
I been knowing that cat
my whole life
Texted later
Gonna fine that kayot
Cut opin his stomik
Give Murphy back to you

He can’t spell Dear God
None of them can spell anymore
What do they do all those hours
in school Beneath the plane
Clouds make a floor Around the plane
Clouds build their house

                                           Under us
somewhere The Mississippi A mile wide
they say Where Something once
licked the land in two Someone once
was the first to cross it Someone first
eyed it from above Coffee soda snacks
roll through Clouds pull in closer still
Make buffalo circles Bulls on the outside
Calves and sows inside Tucked away
The form they use to fend off wolves How do
soldiers know when to Pull the trigger
Toggle the switch Push the button
(I have no idea how we fire
what we use as guns anymore)
How does anything look Dangerous
from here How does Everything
not Each night Roger Reeves read
Even the lions have left
for the mountains
Each night he read
Most young kings come home
without their heads
Our president
keeps lists of people he wants
killed Nicholas’s life has only
been war People on the list
get Scratched off Erased Nicholas
only sees dead bodies
on a screen Lifes Deaths follow
Lifes Deaths The president’s list
never gets any shorter Outside
the plane Clouds even closer Beyond
the plane Clouds darker still

                                                     The man
on the aisle turns on his light Neither
the man in the middle nor I like this
Makes it Impossible to see out the window
The voice breaks in Around us Above
We’re going to put a hold
on service right now I’ll ask
Everyone to please return
to their seats and buckle in
We show turbulence ahead
and it looks like it’s with us
the rest of the way home

The man in the middle grows paler
again and I wonder if now is the time
to bring this to a stop Write
Nicholas a note instead You
are my most favorite person ever
You carried me from all my burning rooms

But it is impossible to write
as the plane Drops then Rises
Lowers one side Lowers the other
This is not the ocean
says the man in the middle
Air is not the ocean at all
We touch shoulders over
and over as we rock side
to side I push myself back
into the seat Close my eyes

usually came last to breakfast Scuffled
in slippers Fuzzled by sleep A dancer
first Of course then Royal Of course
Looking Regal Cloaked in a bathrobe
He carried across the country
Just for moments like this The Prince
rehearses the weight of wearing King
We drop more Faster this time
And everyone Woahs together
Except for the man in the middle
Who is smiling Who pats my hand
Have no fear my friend Wisest uncle
Pats twice again God takes no poet
until his best poem is written
You my friend will save us all

And truly he believes this
For he never stops smiling Not
as the turbulence worsens
Not when it grows worse again
Not when everyone folds
themselves in two Not as the rest
drop head to knees Not when
the lightning strikes us
Not as I taste us burn

We land of course Planes always do
Every chicken returns to her roost
Still everyone claps at touchdown
The man in the middle
puts a hand to my back You did it
my friend Brought us all back home

We sit alone Away from the airport
Our own special tarmac
Rain a blanket around us
Blinking at each other
Through the red light swirl
And I no longer see them
But I can hear them still
One plane then another
Engines screaming Thrusts reversing
A screeching kiss when the tires hold
The song that promises
Yet another Someone
is given Yet another Chance
To write their very own
God Marked Best Poem

Tanya Olson lives in Silver Spring, Maryland and is a Lecturer in English at University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Her first book, Boyishly, was published by YesYes Books in 2013 and was awarded a 2014 American Book Award. She has also won the Discovery/Boston Review prize and was named a Lambda Emerging Writers Fellow by the Lambda Literary Foundation. Her poem “54 Prince” was included in Best American Poetry 2015.


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