My life as a fallen star

Maybe it was the way the light worked its way into everything when you were too young to work out the dark from the not-so-dark. The way even your father’s pain glowed some nights. A tree could only take you so far up, and it always hurt on the way down. You couldn’t know the terrible thing until it happened, till it became your life. You were hungry, then, in that way children have of always being hungry, but worse, there really was nothing to eat. In between the spirit and your ribcage, southern stars were dying out, one by one. You thought ‘this must be it, the whole goddamn story’. Cornfield, tobacco barn, poverty, pain. Pain. It wasn’t all you felt, but it was there beneath everything else you felt. One day the light wasn’t there. The field was dark, your father was dark, your mother was a felled tree on the moon. Kid, listen, cause this part is important; you didn’t have a choice. You couldn’t get what you needed here, and so you did the terrible thing. A gun, crossing the highway, waiting till there were no more cars parked in front of the convenient store, it was all a blur. One minute you were there, the next, you were gone. Two years gone. Strange mercy, this. Now you were well cared for, behind walls you couldn’t get to the other side of. You could trust this. It was real. When they held you to the floor and stuck the needle in, you said “thank you”. Thank you. The light was gone for a long time. You don’t know how long. Long enough. Then you’d notice little things, like how your heart was growing larger, not smaller. How none of it had turned you mean. How it smoothed you over and opened you up. You couldn’t know this then, kid, but it all had to happen. To get to here you had to go to there. The sharpest edge of it all, and I know, you almost didn’t return to us. But that’s the thing about life, it’s only when you’ve gone too far that you can come back. The things that change you hurt the most. And then they become bigger than everything else that has ever happened to you. It happened. To you. That’s the way the light works itself into everything eventually. Your father doesn’t glow now, and your mother is still shipwrecked on the moon. But you glow a little bit now, on the inside, and you call this Earth your home. The thing is; you can’t write better endings for the people that you love. Because this, this has always been your story. 


The Story Doesn’t Change, You Do

and it happens like most things happen

while you’re busy with something else 

the way it shifts its weight to another foot

so you don’t go numb

like how my mother threatens us all with her death

yet again

and I know I never could save her

not as a child, not as an adult

and so I surrender her 

to the pile in the backyard 

to the moon raking over the water 

to the dim light of my father 

and the death rattle of the pipe in my brother’s mouth

I am North,

they are South 

the story stays the same

only we’re a little different 

we were always bound to lose them 

one way or another 

you can’t make anyone want anything 

and that’s just a fact

like the fat on the bone 

we’re not hardwired 

we’re just 

a little hard 

to reach 

sometimes.


Henry and Margaret (Ode to Autumn)

“Henry, do you love me?”

“What’s not to love, dear?”

he’s burning leaves

humming into things 

heavenly;

what you lose track of

the sum total of light 

in the backyard

twisting in the wind

like pure church in a glass 

everything beautiful deferred for so long

now here it is

it’s funny how seamlessly seasons change

makes you thirsty for it 

“Henry, do you remember when we first met?

You said that I reminded you of the moon.”

“I remember dear.”

The air chilly 

and gathering dark  

there is some kind of forever here

though you cannot see it when you’re standing in it

love is a wild moon tonight 

smell of dirt and driftwind 

and it is all right here 

and now.


Prayer, Friends

There’s a moment

Just before you’ve finished gathering the days ends together 

When the sun says;

‘I am going down now’

And you think; yeah, me too

And later that night 

Which night?

All the nights my dear

The sound of laughter carries itself louder than pain

Down the hall

Not always 

I know

But tonight 

For the purpose of a poem 

A prayer

Why not 

This laughter located just beneath everything that went wrong today 

I hope you know that I will still love you tomorrow 

All the morrows 

And the march of tides 

As they winter the road with slippery conditions 

If ever you doubted a friend was as good as a prayer 

Listen

Let the laughter

Play itself out

It’s not always

As bad

As we need it to be. 


James Diaz is the author of This Someone I Call Stranger (Indolent Books, 2018) as well as the founding editor of Anti-Heroin Chic. Their poems have appeared in Yes, Poetry, Gone Lawn, The Collidescope and Thimble Literary Magazine. They live by the simple but true motto that “feelings matter,” every shape and size of feeling. They believe that every small act of kindness makes an often unseen but significant difference in someone’s life and hope that their poems are a small piece of that.

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