Current Issue Excerpts
(after Billy Collins, "Going Out For Cigarettes")
It's a story as old as Noah:
One morning your kid says he's going backpacking,
ties his shoelaces and disappears like Houdini,
not one email, not even a phone call from a gas station.
You make up stories to tell the neighbors,
he's in Tibet, freeing Buddhists,
he's in New York, freeing Martha.
Who knows? He could be in a cult, a gang, a frat.
Boot camp. A ska band.
It was a mistake to buy him walking shoes for his birthday,
a mistake to tell him the sky is the limit,
but how did you know he would take this literally?
Board a transatlantic flight and ascend up, up,
out of your plans for him, out of college tuition money
saved all these years, out of the 2-bedroom
bungalow, cobblestone walkway, gardenia rows,
out of all geometries constructed to hold him in.
With him gone, your life becomes the kitchen appliance
no one knows how to work. You await instructions from
the unmade bed, the unpatched jeans. Time is either
a run-on sentence unpunctuated or
a pause unbroken by sound.
In the hours left behind him
your feet become as still as
a first snow: any step you take destroys
the perfect landscape of his absence.
AMAL MASRI has been awarded a residency at Yaddo, a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, a fellowship from Columbia University's writing program, and a residency at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. She is a winner of the Toronto Star Short Story Contest and a finalist in the Malahat Review Far Horizons Poetry Contest and the Arc Poetry Magazine International Poem of the Year contest.