3 Poems by Jamie Mortara

Jamie Mortara


but i do remember
how it feels
to love one quietly
to bite your tongue
in the background
from far away
that your heartbeat
isn’t overheard
by anybody

it’s not unique just to me
everyone out there
knows what it’s like
to love something
that terrifies them
but i keep throwing myself to the water
just to prove that i can swim
i keep letting the current
beat me
from both sides
for so long
that it’s no wonder
i look like
some kind of bridge
to everyone

this year
my life
it even sounds
like a mixtape
about the river
it even feels like a song
that would sweep me up
if i let it
like a mouth
that would spit me out
and back
into the ocean
when it felt like
it was done with me

the playlist
this compilation
let’s call it
The River
let’s call it Merrimack
let’s call it Hudson
call it Connecticut
Delaware / Potomac
Patapsco / Raritan

let’s call it James
call it
let’s call it My Feet Shivering
In The Sacramento

call it
Regretting You Beside Cherry Creek In Denver
call it
No Matter How Far
I Manage To Run
The Mississippi
Keeps Catching Me

it’s like that night
when you asked me why
am i so
afraid of you
that i finally realized
you had no idea
how much damage
you could do

it’s the sad
willfully-forgotten truth
that nearly all our rivers
seem to be named after
the people
that we stole them from

nearly all my nightmares
are for a hand
that has barely touched me
while i still carry the knuckles
of so many others on my skin

they dub me Belle of the Bends

they sing it’s a long way down
to the bottom of the river

and i stare at the water
between Illinois
and Iowa
for one last time
this summer
i watch these people
casting their reels
into the current
and i see this boy
this angry
little boy
i see him catch a fish
how he stares at it
writhing in his hand
and then
how he throws it
straight down
at the sidewalk
as hard as he can
and again
and again
and again


is the sum
of all our mistakes
and as soon as i arrive in a new city
i get it
i am already so ready to leave it
this Restless Everything Syndrome
I-Can-Smell-the Churches-From-Here feeling
i would argue that Romero had it all wrong with his zombies
there’s plenty of room in Hell
with all this holy apology
it’s Heaven that’s getting crowded
for the first time
in a long time
i’m not landing somewhere
just because gravity won’t stop asking me
not because of some slowdown in the highway
not gonna move to Reno because i Ran Out of Money
every eye is automatically a tourist if it’s open
everything infinite
but in small doses
there’s this story the rabbi once told me
about how we travel through life collecting
pieces of the universe
all the happy and the hurt because
it’s the only job
we were ever meant to have
to help rebuild the infinite
little by little
in small
and we both remember what it’s like to sit in the pew
all while everybody else eats themselves some Communion
it’s humiliating
and strangely
how i was in each of my partners’ sweet dreams last night
how i told Elliot
this is a good sign
told them my spirit must be doing so well now
that it can spend its time helping other
and that y’all
is a great example
of wishful denial
i confess now
the reason i live inside of other people’s dreams
is because i’m just too terrified
of my own
i do want to die
but i’ve got shit to tend to
got too long of a list to stay here
one day i’ll be able to say
i drove the circumference of the Earth
for just myself
for no one else
every day is a day i almost never had
gallows humor i know
a wedding invitation
God never loved anyone besides themself
and that’s the point
i get it now
i was just collecting another piece
sure it’s sharp in my hands
but thank you
i mean it
thank you
we all find some invisible thing to pray to
so i will teach this demon to love me
Layne tells me:
the part where Lot’s wife gets all pillar-of-salt
is exactly why
action heroes
never look back at the explosions they make
at some point
everyone is their own preacher
we both know to fear the Late Adopter
the True Believer
we have both been zealous and dangerous before
so when the congregation says you are “hardening your heart”
we know exactly
what they really mean
everyone’s crawling along the Beltway still
and we just decided to exit


trying to figure out how to write the rest of this book / when / i drop my pen / stare up at the eco-friendly lighting / at the communal kitchen / the kombucha tap / all the tech startup jackasses inside the coworking space inside my head milling about and telling each other how they feel about the protests on TV / when / at the desk across from me / Dr. Sanjay Gupta quietly puts down his dissertation on the Economics of the Liver / helps a man next to me decide if he needs braces / (he definitely need braces) / and then puts his hand on my shoulder / the whole world had just watched me totally choke live on Jeopardy the night before / but Dr. Gupta hasn’t seen it yet / might not ever / he doesn’t really care for Jeopardy / won't explain why / i tell him / i can’t do this anymore / and Dr. Sanjay Gupta folds his reading glasses and slides them into his breast pocket / he says / let’s take a walk in the Lavender Room / which apparently is a large / lavender-colored room / inside the coworking space / inside my head / i suppose people walk in a circle along the walls of the Lavender Room / in an effort to remember the things / they haven’t thought of yet / there is a point / when i ask the good doctor / if we get free printing here / he says yes / there’s complimentary root beer in the fridge / sometimes everyone gets together for game night / there’s a running contest up on the announcement board / of people trying to predict the exact year / the snow will finally melt / in Boston / Sanjay says / you can pretty much do anything you want / but don’t let them catch you sleeping here overnight / and i think / shit / that was my plan / i was going to wait until everyone left for the day / and get some actual rest on one of the fancy couches / wow / Dr. Sanjay Gupta is peering into me with those eyes / probably because i need braces / probably because / even in my dreams / even in the coworking space inside my broken head / even inside myself / i am homeless

jamie mortara is an 8.5-centimeter aluminum sculpture figure stylized to depict an astronaut in a spacesuit. jamie was created by the artist Paul Van Hoeydonck, who was given the following set of design specifications: jamie was to be lightweight but sturdy, capable of withstanding the temperature extremes of the Moon, and not identifiably male or female, nor of any identifiable ethnic group. jamie was commissioned and secretly placed on the Moon by the crew of Apollo 15 at Hadley Rille on August 1, 1971. more about re-entry pressurization failure can be found at jamiemortara.com.