A boy lifted his shirt on Essex Street
showed me his bare chest with a plastic
port below his heart like a dial you’d turn
to adjust the temperature or turn on a ceiling fan.
Ribs near the skin when he lifted his arms
I have a problem, he said words slow slow slow
Hands flashing open, I need ten.
I’d almost cried with fear driving into the tunnel,
road rising up on the green bridge so high,
it was all I could do not to fly above the city.
What keeps me here keep me here.
Before we left the restaurant on Summer Street,
I told Deborah that our freshman year,
one weekend when she’d gone home
I decided to kill myself, walked to Friendly’s.
Then hitchhiked with the idea that the person
who picked me up could kill me, then I wouldn’t
have to kill myself. But the boys who stopped were mild.
Deborah looked scared when I said that
as if it could still happen as if she could stop me.
The girl at the table beside us said, I’m five.
We made it, Deborah said. What have I made?
I didn’t know what an alcoholic was, she said
I was only 17.
The next May, we found a room of pink balloons.
We were up to our necks.
Is this heaven? Nick asked,
Maeve small enough to run underneath
creating a tidal wave of pink balloons
of happiness of joy of an invisible
little girl laughing running toward you.
Kelle Groom is the author of four poetry collections, most recently, Spill (Anhinga Press). Her poems have appeared in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, The New Yorker, New York Times, Ploughshares, and Poetry, among others. Her memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster) was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, and Oprah O Magazine selection. Groom is on the faculty of the low-residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College, Lake Tahoe, and Director of the Summer Workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.