Invented by Kids {Brad Jordahl}

You turn on all the lamps
as soon as we enter; this place is still new
enough to be frightened in.
We took this weekend to buy our bed
and find the cracked, endearing corners
of the new apartment. A bed for just the two of us,
no hand-me-downs
from family homes.

Walking that morning
we tried to tell each other secrets in the street,
but talk turns to jokes. In the April snow
I pointed out a razor-clipped Frisbee, its edges
cut ragged by safety scissors. I carried it and twirled it
like a circular saw between my fingertips, the melting
snow flicking in all directions on our clothes. A relic
from last week’s sun, I said. Probably invented by kids. I hope
they don’t use it on a dog.

The mattress salesman had a fingernail like a fish scale—
it stood out broad and gleaming at me, yellowed at the tip,
whenever he rubbed his temples. He used the one finger for both,
prodding at his head like a child dipping into a pudding,
his shirt sleeve crossing his face. When he went for paperwork,
you whispered loudly:
he shouldn’t sit on the bed with us. His arm propped him up
like a flying buttress. Too familiar, as if he takes his breaks
on this spot. I’m glad your whisper was loud—it came out
in circles, shaped by your mouth, and I hope he heard.

By agreement I sit apart as you sign,
reading the book we brought to speak aloud from
while we walked the splashing curbs. We watched
for each other, careful as parents in an airport
clutching their child’s hand. I read biographies
of lonely people
to see how well they manage. We couldn’t afford
to give the cribs a cursory look—not yet.

The night smells smoky and the clouds
are prescription bottle orange—more snow.
In bed amid overlarge old sheets
I pry my fingers
into your belly button. I love the birth mark
hidden there, dull and brown like a cigarette burn. The stretch marks
are translucent blue, faded crayon below your ribs. My skull
is distinct and hard in your fingers as you rummage and curl, promising never
to cut my hair again. But I like it, uneven and wild
like a fistful of straws. Only one is truly stubbly, waiting
to be chosen and dictate fate. We have odd rituals
that we shouldn’t pay attention to anymore, the ones
of rudimentary courtship, but I persist. We had to throw
that Frisbee back into its same slot in the snow.

Move your mouth to make miracles for me, keep talking
while I brush and spit color into the sink. I promise
I can hear you over the water.
I don’t want to learn to read your mind. I’d just repeat you
like a man singing along and off-key. I lay my hand on the heat
and the heartbeat
between your shoulder blades. You thumb
the light-switch and I see your eyes,
two degenerate children, flashing in the shudder
and the sudden black. We’ll learn together what sleep is good for.

[So, if you made it this far, what do you think? Any harsh suggestions?]


2 thoughts on “Invented by Kids {Brad Jordahl}

  1. kjrenner

    I love the image of a frisbee turned into a circular saw. I also love “prescription bottle orange” and “heat and heartbeat between your shoulder blades.” All I might suggest is moving the second stanza later? The bed and the bed salesman seem like they should go together?

    1. bradjordahl Post author

      I always love when others love my favorite parts of a poem. “Prescription bottle orange” was a rewrite that, to me at least, smacks of Eliot’s Prufrock sky–“like a patient etherized on a table.”


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