Everything, Including Us, Gets Old

by Grace Curtis


At night we rolled up the lawn around the house

plucking out all the vowels, saying

each one aloud as we’d been taught

to do as children.

At first it was a game

we perfected. We held the fruits

in our palms,

a cluster of Es, the As of apple.

We thought if we did this right

we’d live

long enough to see it through.

In the morning we rolled the lawn back out

stepping onto it, convincing ourselves

it was new again, that we’d done

our good deed. We scattered

the vowels back out over everything

to have something to do

the next night.


We hid the cancers

under the soles of our shoes. We formed

ourselves into shapes.

There was nothing else we could do. The trees

continued to bloom in the spring.

The rains came then didn’t. There was both

time and non-time though in either case

it seemed to pass.

Days became chocolate then

honey then vinegar. Flowers

planted when we first arrived

took hold and pushed

through like a sunrise. The moon

fell on some nights like a gold sequin or a coin

that we picked up off the ground

and stuffed into a black velvet purse.

Had we opened it,

it might have contained all

the hidden things. So we sacrificed

the moon and stood

admiring the hole it left.


We always wanted a boat, though

neither one of us could sail or

swim or even liked the water.

It was an adolescent memory to which

we held, reeling in

what little we’d caught.

Some days we stood

at the reservoir near town

looking, finding

only snapping turtles with U-boat

mouths on gray hulls

that sunned themselves

on the shelf of what was once

a corn field, their props tangled

with silks and husks.


We were old when we realized

we were orphans, the modes of

transportation taking on

every conceivable approach,

the destination the same.

We wandered about the house looking

for a parent. We looked under

the beds, in the closets, inside

the bathtubs. We stepped

onto the back porch

and called out the names

until one by one we ran

out of them.

For days we ambled about

not knowing what

to do next or who would feed us.

We pulled out the old

relics and tried them on for size,

side-smushed shoes,

collapsed handbags,

out-of-ink pens,

until we settled on

a simple dinner at the kitchen table

wanting at that moment not

to be adopted by anything

not even each other

ever again.


In a dream, you were eating.

When you slept,

you chewed. This is what

you could not swallow. All

that was spread before us

and by whom. From an upstairs window

we looked

across fields that were corn

on top, beans beneath—each year

flip-flopped. The horses

accepted this, having been thrown in

with the starlings. A neighbor

near the tree row sent smoke

signals. As you vacuumed

you sucked the words

from the air. We both thought

we had been there forever,

sometimes, only me.


A lady swung her spikes through

the air, wildly, listeners

rapt. A mother fed her child residue.

All progressed nicely though too long

the gray skies dipped

into our luggage-sized bags

and slipped

behind the closed doors of clacking

laptops. Words

became songs in a key

unidentifiable, pink

beneath pink beneath asphalt. A conversation

ended. We packed up. A man’s face

fell into his day’s soup. A deal

erupted into crusts

some quarrel

over the height of the first letter

of every sentence. Every line

of every thing

spilled out

into the aisle.


It was in the parking lot. When

you opened the door, it entered,

befriending you. Me too,

me too. It was pale,

smelled like bananas

or muffins, but less lumpy. (We couldn’t tell

if it was us

or just us.) It’s time,

people whispered behind our backs.

We stopped

the research, closed the book like

a heavy Bible when it drops.

We started thinking the thought

about not thinking,

about giving in

and how it hangs

like after-sex, a detente,

as if settling in or giving up fear

for the first time. We waited

beneath wisteria, bombing it.

It became true just by saying it

like a wing-thing

in the green air. It knew

that everything, including us,

gets old.


We listened to the waves

as if by standing near

we could create space. Yet,

nowhere was space

at more of a premium. A glacier

fell too soon and we

denounced it.

We tried

again, “Look at the splash,

and tell us

it isn’t so.” We fussed

with the insides

of our pockets.

An infrared picture

of the sun reveals topography

similar to the curve

of a woman’s breast on fire. We were

a boat. We were ever

toward what we’d never seen.

We knew it

was the best of the best, gone.

We learned

to love a thing

that seemed like—or was better than—

a real thing, a thing

remembered from old-fashioned

encyclopedias that came

in a set of twenty-two volumes

purchased from a man

who went door to door

convincing parents that every last thing

that mattered

had been captured.