When I was thirteen, I had a friend named Carly
who was obsessed with pills—she took supplements, like echinacea,
obsessively, counting them out, holding them in her hand.
She liked the way the light cascaded off their slippery backs,
something like that. Carly was a beauty and smart, but one of those
who vanishes after high school, like wind over a rocky ledge.
When my niece first went into the hospital at 12, it was ideation,
not a poet’s ideal. It sounds too much like possession,
or cultish reprogramming, or something you do to crops.
She sounded like herself on the phone—even sounded strong.
We had a witty chat about the merits of the gayer therapist.
But then, came the pills: 28 of them. Attempt is no better.
Worse, if I’m to be honest. It strangely underscores the outcome
as failure. She lives and has to go on attempting to live. Why do it,
live? The wind sings of terror outside the window at night.
Who can’t relate to that? I answer her with this: the blooms
come back again, I’ve never seen them not do it, and they pulse
with future-hunger same as we do. Whole fences, whole hillsides,
lit with that desire to extend, that single intention. My advice
is to find an idea that distracts you beyond comprehension, one
that has no apparent outcome, and attempt it, over and over
like breath, like hunger. You know you can do it. Listen
to every iteration for a better answer than the last. You can make
a life of this, hold it in your hand. See how it wants to be remade again?
An editor, literary event planner, & critic, Tobias Wray’s poems have found homes in Blackbird, Bellingham Review, Meridian, The Georgia Review, & elsewhere. They are also gathered in volumes such as THE QUEER NATURE ANTHOLOGY (Autumn House Press). He directs the University of Idaho’s Creative Writing Programs.
Runner-Up, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize