Two poems from Anne-Marie Thompson’s Mama Calls Me Crying
followed by a note on the author
New Year’s Day
i.m. José Feghali
When I knot the fourth trash bag, my new flat screen says
another Polar Vortex. Last year’s Vortex trapped me two days
in an Oklahoma toll-road town with my ex. The Holiday Inn’s
broken fire alarm iced us out of our pretending and into
the brand new year’s white morning. José, I only knew you
from a distance, but somehow today I feel you listening. Today,
I’m making room for Christmas flat screens and stand mixers.
The screen says how many died from December drinking and then
from December weather. José, you died from December sadness
and then from a gunshot wound to the head. Great souls are always
mysteries. You would have tracked this Vortex with your antennaed Jeep,
would have heard a shift in the wind and known what was coming.
You could hear what others couldn’t, could make a piano sound
like silver-pure longing: more human than the human voice;
song before song existed. Last midnight at the silvery party, I met
a man in a spangled mask and said, This stranger will warm my hand
in his silver pocket for the whole Vortex, and then it was another year.
José, this is an elegy, because death is too small for a great soul.
This is all about pretending, about stepping into any other
weird hobby, or masquerade costume, or self. Like stepping into
the eye of a storm: everything suddenly still—only you, and then, music.
When I Tell You During Turbulence at 36,000 Feet That Everything Will Be Fine
I think of the man in the V for Vendetta mask
dangling his legs off the roof of a drugstore
on Franklin Street. No one else seemed to see.
My friends kept walking toward the restaurant,
talking about tax breaks and single payers,
and I told myself, advertising stunt, Halloween
prankster, my imagination, and then moved on
into the monochrome safety of evening.
We build our stories out of whatever we
can get our hands on. Ask any parent.
My dad never let go, so I never learned
to ride a bike. Now he collects castoff junk
during his jogs around the neighborhood—
baseball cap, porcelain Easter rabbit, Texas flag,
kitchenette—and keeps it all in a storage unit.
There’s a story here, somewhere inside
the jumbled, sun-bleached universe: Hold on,
you never know. Or maybe: Everything will be fine.
Anne-Marie Thompson works as a technical writer for a software company and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. She has taught writing and music courses at Johns Hopkins University, Westminster College, and Lincoln University. Her poetry collection, Audiation (Story Line, 2013), won the Donald Justice Award.
“New Year’s Day” first appeared in Poor Claudia; “When I Tell You During Turbulence at 36,000 Feet That Everything Will Be Fine” first appeared in Ploughshares.