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James Kelly Quigley


Of course I miss you. I just didn't want to say it in a poem.

So I wrote my surprise at you fitting the Earth like a glove,

your pointer finger buffing out the bleb in a highball glass,

but still I know so little about grief that I bargain with the bitters

in my Perrier to swish you out as backwash from the depth of me,

I implore the dads in movies to die searching for a breath

in their hospital beds, respirators chugging along diligently

and the hospice nurse in floral scrubs parting matted gray hair

to stick a last electrode like a good sport, the way rookies

always play until the whistle. If I had to narrow it down

I'd say I miss being smaller than you, knowing less than you,

having fewer tattoos than you. I miss how much you loved

that Grady White, 24-foot, dual motor, scoured pearly

with steel wool and glinting from its moors in the harbor,

later from cinderblocks in the parking lot, predictably.

They say it's a disease and every so often I remind myself

to believe them. I'm glad you didn't live to see my mother

nearly killed by the cop car going 102 miles per hour,

the way her face looked after the helicopter winged her

from one shitty stretch of Jersey to another—like bubblegum.

And yes, for some reason, I'm glad you got to meet the first girl

who ever fucked me, but I'm ashamed of what happened next.

I have gotten nowhere and I'm losing moonlight.

The blackout curtains aren't tall enough for these windows.

I know it doesn't make sense but I'm certain there are mice

in my radiator, planning something. I've already seen sawdust

by the doorjamb. I'm on the floor with a red foam roller,

this awful day is puking its guts out, bare trees and brick buildings

totally compliant. In the end I'm becoming who I become.

How lackluster your last act, thumbing a baggie of pill dust

and lying on a spring mattress in a room full of other men

lying on spring mattresses, thinking about what was, what is,

what could have been, and refusing it all once more.


James Kelly Quigley’s poetry has received a Pushcart Prize nomination, as well as a nomination for Best New Poets. Recent work has been published or is forthcoming in Harpur Palate, Narrative, Nashville Review, Puerto del Sol, The American Journal of Poetry, Tinderbox, and other places. He received both a BA and an MFA from New York University, where he taught undergraduate creative writing and served as Copy Editor of Washington Square Review. A finalist for a Brooklyn Poets fellowship, James was born and raised in New York, and lives in Brooklyn.

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