One of my professor friends posted a screenshot of his seminar,
the one he conducts for good students at a good school.
I can see you there, center row, third from left.
My friend is in the little box next to you.
The famous guest author is the lower right corner.
Wish I could have been on that game show.
If you’re here it means you made it,
that you’re not in permanent couch-surfing mode,
that you stopped drinking after those black outs,
that you don’t have a glove compartment rattling
with glass pipes and lighters,
that you kept a waitress job long enough to pay
a bit of rent and what it takes to join
this array of the bright and the bored.
So many of these students have the same white bookshelves
every influencer sits before these days.
Would they have the same books I read to you,
the ones you threw across the room
when the letters wouldn’t stop dancing,
and that you had to read all over again the next year?
Would the sleeves of that hoody cover your tracks?
This is what I always hoped for you:
to know that not every brick building is a courthouse, or a jail;
not every group is a gang.
Even in this checkerboard you can almost read these lives—
the texts firing off off-line to the BFFs,
the renegotiations with OK, Boomer over
the unexpected homecoming.
You’ve been there, too.
If only you could have learned that not every grown man wants
something from you that takes the light out of your eyes,
the light I see in theirs, box by box,
the light I would see in your eyes
if only they would open in time.
His work has appeared in Cagibi, HIV Here and Now by Indolent Books, North of Oxford, Poets Wear Prada, and World Literature Today. He has been a featured poetry reader at the Forest Hills Public Library. He has read his work at Poets House, the Zen Mountain Monastery Buddhist Poetry Festival, Kew Willow Books, Lunar Walk, and other venues. He completed master workshops with Jericho Brown, Alex Dimitrov, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, and Mark Wunderlich. He holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and is an activist and advocate for the arts and social justice. He lives in Forest Hills, Queens.