Labors Forfeited

by Tegan Blackwood


remember that time
when we were the same as we are
when the universe went on expanding
at its same forlornly hastening rate
drawing out the dark space
and our broken broadcasts went interstellar and died
and the stars did not all supernova or collide
just went on burning, growing a little older,
while the ones we saw were dead already

and there was no rumbling tectonic dissonance
to disturb the static hum
of televisions and spinning wheels
kicking up a glistening spray from
the just-damp street awash with iridescent motor oil
beneath a whitewashed moon
no, africa shambled away at fingernail pace
without any impediment at all
and no seas or mountains rose and died unseen

the air was sharp, like a splinter, not like a razor
already a few leaves, buffeted, fell, though the rest remained
some scarlet, some drought-mottled drab
some elections were won and prisoners were shot
dust from china left striking sunsets, stinking in the smog
my favorite pencil broke and I found a dime on the pavement

there were no disasters in the news
and someone won the lottery
but the clouds did not part
no ray of light subsumed my world
and I did not glimpse the power and brevity of life
or the breadth and bliss of ignorance
and you did not taste like cigarettes or coffee or chapstick
you did not feel like combed cotton or human hair
and you did not smell like wood fire or stale sweat
because I was here and you were over there
and I smiled at you instead of kissing you
and kept on not-kissing you
and turned and went away

Tegan Blackwood lives in Indianapolis, IN, with her fiancé, three cats, and two children. Her poetry has appeared in Hamilton Stone Review, Sequestrum, American Journal of Poetry, Revolute, and Sky Island Journal. In 2020, she received Sequestrum's New Writer Award for Poetry.