All Possible Fates
The universe is expanding, but my apartment
is not. This is balance I tell myself,
tripping over trikes, toy blocks,
the way a housecat can convince itself a mattress
is wilderness, its very own Savannah,
or how no one in the neighborhood can afford
the neighborhood, though we ghost
past townhouses, pretending they are ours.
In the end, isn’t it in our nature to disperse?
To pull away? When my daughter begs to play
hide-and-seek, I try my best not to find her
immediately, though there are only so many places
to hide. Then one day, sick of ducking
behind sofa cushions, or under the desk, she slips
into the bathroom, snaps down the lock.
Three years old and well out of reach.
Before I knew I too could disappear, I would leap
off balconies, bunk beds and swings, bike
to the brink of each dead-end street.
I write this beside a man weeping into the Arts
& Leisure section of the Times. His lips
are quivering, face wet, yet what can I do but look
away? I look away, but he’s in this now,
fixed inside, like how my daughter was a door
I threatened and pleaded with, until she felt
like having pancakes, and turned the knob. I admit
all fault, to all possible fates. Are we bound
to be an airport where everyone leaves?
The Man on Fire
(Kaufman Studios Fair–Astoria, NY)
The man on fire is trained not to burn
but to look like he is burning.
Behind him, a woman cascades
off a crane, and at noon, a squad-car
will slam through a barn,
but the man on fire is trained not to burn.
He wears dark clothes, gloves, and a ski-mask.
He places a utility grill lighter to his wrist.
The man on fire becomes the man
on fire as it leaps up his elbow,
his torso, his back. A show-dog, it obeys
him, hurdles and begs. Rolls
and plays dead. Past the cones,
people snap photos of the man on fire.
An artificial snow-maker blows
artificial snow. But the man knows
his gig is short-lived. Soon, even his salves
and fire-resistant fabrics will give,
for while the man on fire is trained not
to burn, his training is no match
for what writhes upon him, this rising
towards ash, a heat-cloak roped
over countless centuries, cities and bodies,
and so the man must signal for his team
to step in before flames recall
what they are and become him.
Step into this
and reach nowhere
forever: just acres
of grass and absence
and sky, here
you’ll learn to live
swallow your echo
bury your goals
surely you can stay
of the grounds
an occasional yellow sign
of your crossing.
Jared Harél has been awarded the ‘Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize’ from American Poetry Review, as well as the ‘William Matthews Poetry Prize’ from Asheville Poetry Review. Additionally, his poems have appeared in such journals as the Bennington Review, Massachusetts Review, The Southern Review, and Tin House. Harél teaches writing at Nassau Community College, plays drums, and lives in Queens, NY with his wife and two kids.