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  • Tyler Norris

Selections from The College Notebook 2


Only You

I know the things I’ve done. I ran in the hen house

and played with the hens. I kissed smeared lipstick.

I don’t know where I’m going and the silence

of this campus is clawing at my thoughts. You said

you had already seen Europe. My heart burned for India.

To meditate with masters and to get closer to your heart.

The mind of all gods and the heart of mankind was in you.

You had a crystal in your forehead that burned with divinity.

You were the grapes in the vineyard. You were the chandelier

at midnight.

Metaphors dress in suits of armor and die on the battlefield

for you. I know the things I did after I met you. But you

pulled my last thread and I unraveled like the plot of one

of your stories. Knowing you was storybook romance.

Loving you was the narrative of a dreamlike paradigm, one

in which I recognized you the first time I met you. Before you

had said your first word, I remembered the day we were together.

I flashed forward to traveling in the mountains, to snow-capped

kisses; to Rome, and blood-red smiles. I recognized the cultures

of the world in your arms, and the way you wanted to wrap your

heart around Ethiopia and Haiti. You wanted to live among the

dying.

They don’t know our power. The way we burst with color into

this world. Somewhere, I still write essays and count pennies.

Somewhere, you wear scrubs and work late hours. That vibration

emanating from the clouds summons us from our bodies. Calls us

toward the future:

The two of us wandering the world with minds unleashed. We breathe

life into the sick and speak prophecies. Life shimmers from our faces

as we walk among the Earth, now separate, and I remember you as we both go to the end of our lives, happy in every waking moment.

October 31st

We wore masks on more days

than just today. Always putting

on the costume of romance,

the thing we feared most was

intimacy. When the holiday

came around, we found ourselves

surrounded by skeletons and

spiders, as false as your friends

were, who dressed as their favorite

characters and pretended

to like me. They did it for you, yet

you remained oblivious, and

I thanked you for it, for

your blindness driven by lust.

We had more than enough

to drink that night, I, suffering

mundane conversation with strangers.

I was more than ready to whisper

in your ear, pull you by the arm

and take you outside. Those costumes

weren’t just for show. We were role playing

in the back of that car that night.

You thought you knew me, but

I could act better than you could and

for you, believing the lie was more

arousing. Who knew the holiday

could be so scary. Something broke,

and you spent the rest of the night

sitting in the shower, washing

yourself clean.

How ominous those skeletons

looked then, as I sat on the couch

trying to keep my head from spinning.

No emotion in that fleshless corpse

hanging from the wall, as the two of us

shared the room in silence, accompanied

only by the sound of your cries

haunting us from the other room.

Caffeine

The unforgiving night brings with it a mutant

pestilence that sinks into innocent flesh. I’m already

impure—my mouth is full of the day’s dirt. My hair

is full of a week’s worth of grime. My head is full of

a year’s worth of frustration. My heart is full of a lifetime’s

worth of dreaming.

Wake me up, tender goddess. I’m writing off my health

and wellbeing to a midnight devil. I sacrifice the morning

on an altar for you.

Did you know they made Socrates drink hemlock?

In the same way, this world pushes the cup further

into my mouth. In the same way they endlessly assign work.

In the same way when graduation ends, I’ll just be moving on

to my next assignment. They said after twenty two years of school, you’ll spend the rest of your life working. The ones who didn’t respect

the rules will strike it rich. Who knows what will be left of you

when we finish with you. You try to claw your way out as the world

tries to swallow you whole.

I swallow caffeine by the gallons to serve a life

that keeps commanding me to obey. They keep telling us to

move faster. Advertisements—the silent whips that tempt our

every need. The house, the car, the kids: you need to glow like

gods do. You’re chasing that dream on a treadmill.

We keep guzzling from that cup as if we’ve never drank

a day in our life. Our own blood’s in the cup. We bought our

happiness with it. We keep drinking from it as if that familiar

taste of iron doesn’t taste like it’s our own. We drink until

we forget what water tastes like. The liquids that used

to give us life taste bitter in our mouths. That caffeine

pours down our cheeks as our eyes grow bloodshot. We just

pray for grace during the crash.

The Nomad

Even the dishes had mold in them. Toys lay scattered

like a minefield all over the house I grew up in. My parents

were sewn into their positions on torn couches, the television

hypnotizing them into their lethargy. I stayed in my room

mostly, even ate dinners to the sound of old cartoons making

their illustrated jokes. That’s what growing up was those days:

a kind of childish insanity that never seemed to deliver

a punch line. When I moved out for college, I kissed the floor

of my new dorm room. Those tight quarters sang a hallelujah chorus

that sounded like freedom and independence. In those years,

I wondered what living meant. I thought, being an adult is just a façade that grown children wear in order to get what they want

from people that rely on them for support. I even lived in my car

for a little while, trying to fight my own battles. There wasn’t anything

telling me what to do then. Just my lungs were doing work, I didn’t

need a reason to deserve being alive. The winds had a voice that

were calling me to the afterlife. Pain made me want to live harder,

to know more about living until I was filled with it. Now sleeping

in a small apartment feels lavish. I don’t own wooden beams

or cement foundations; I lay in bed and the quiet stars remind me

of their size. I know these lungs so well after all these years, but

even this breathing that I’ve come to love so much I’ll have to give back when the winds come calling again, forever in the air around me,

unwilling to let me get too far away.

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