Graduation Advice You don’t have to know what you’re doing with your life, at least in the way great aunts mean when they ask the question at Thanksgiving dinner. You can answer, I’m trying to consume every flavor of frozen yogurt in New York City, or I’m mastering my online dating swagger or I’m trying to make my cat Internet Famous, and all of these are both true and viable answers. You can be over thirty and not have a permanent mailing address or an idea of whether or not you’ll ever have kids. All you have to do is be the kind of person you would want your niece to ask for help if she were ever lost and afraid. The kindness of strangers is sometimes my best reason for wanting to be alive. On the rush hour train, a man steps on my feet and pushes aside a pregnant woman to sit down. But then a teenage boy stands and smiles sweetly when she thanks him. He doesn’t say, you’re welcome. He just nods and fades into the train crowd and he is not a hero, but humans just aren’t human like we used to be and so I find myself wanting to smile at him. I fall off my bike and no one says a word, but I drop a crumpled up receipt and a man runs after me. O thank you, I say, and he beams as if this were his one good deed for the week, and I want to say, good human. But more often, I want to say it to myself, because I won’t pretend I’m not a dog drooling for the treat. What am I doing with my life? Looking for the next scrap of sweetness. Holding my hands up to the sun. This was the longest winter I can remember. My best friend almost died in a car crash, but didn’t. My mom finished chemo and her hair grew back in. My long term plan is happy hour. My short term plan is happy minute. I’m trying to teach my neurosis to play dead. It’s okay to not know what the fuck you’re doing. It’s Spring and finally, I can feel the sun. I Don’t Want to Disappear This Ambien is a voluntary eclipse; the softest exit from the rusted belly of a dead, floating whale. I grew up believing Care Bears were furry little Gods—when they watered the clouds, it rained. When they bowled, thunder. And O, how the Care Bear Stare made my own belly shine every time I wished a motherfucker would. Tenderheart Bear, I hope I dream of you, you benevolent little marshall of the sky. Please float me home. Please don’t let me disappear. Don’t let fear be the anthem of my beginning and my end. Please God. Please TenderHeart Bear. Please Cheer Bear and FunShine Bear. Whoever and whatever you are. Please God that I am to myself. Please pull the strings. Please save a life. Please let the landing be so soft, I wake up already on the ground. Everything I Know About Loving I Learned From My Father My father never lifts a fork til my mother does. If her fish comes out with seasoning, his steak goes back also. If my wife doesn’t eat, I don’t eat, he told 8 year-old me. When we went to our first 3D movie as a family, my mom was the only one to reach for the birds, gasping in gulps of joy. That’s why I fell in love with her, he told 10 year-old me. When she had chemo treatments, he fell down the stairs at the hospital and bruised his hip but never told her. I don’t want mama to worry, he told 31 year-old me. When he gets out of the car, he reaches for her hand as if it might steady both of them.
July 29, 2014
Three Poems – Joanna Hoffman