AOL Instant Messenger 2

I remember throwing IM after IM at your away message.
It was like hurling my body against a wall.
The insulting instantaneous response of brb shower or
life sux or i want to do to you what spring does
to the cherry trees
. Fuck! I had a crush on your girlfriend
and still do. And was a marblemouth. Mealymouth?
There was a ghost poem, a stray-dog poem, an evaporated
poem that got lost in the ether, or the internet. My mom
would come home and lay a hand on the computer tower
to see if I’d broken the rules and I had. Pushed
the black button when I heard the garage door
and everything clicked off. What did I know then
of love’s austere and lonely offices? jk jk jk


The ash blows down from the burning hills
and we’re all weeping in the haze. The cats
smell like embers when they come in at night,
if they come in. There’s something
caught in my throat I can’t swallow so I stay
in the shallow end of the pool, gulping saliva
and treading water. I lied, you can’t tread water
in the shallow end and I head straight
for the depths, go so deep my ears pop.

The world is on fire and all I can think about
is swimming pools: cool blue liquid prisms
to lose myself in, to soak up through my skin,
the chlorine pungent in my nose and hair.
A smoker sits next to me on the train
and all I can think is, wildfires.

There’s a tiny stream at the bottom of the canyon,
taking its sweet time, nothing like the rushing creek
I grew up on, used to wade in looking for
I don’t know what—cold feet? And with who?
I make an imaginary friend. We ride our bikes there.
Pick our way slowly barefoot through
fast water, over the slippery rocks. Oh!
I think I remember, or I made it up: it was crawfish,
what we were looking for.
~ ~ ~

Audra Puchalski currently lives in Oakland, California, but she was created in the crucible of AIM. Her work has also appeared in Jokes Review, Superstition Review, and Parentheses Journal.