Benjamin Bartu

The Trick

                           if not after, impossible without, John Murillo & Ross Gay  

Fine, you’ve seen me — standing in the restroom, 
Razors in the skull, wrists to my head, it was some- 
Thing I couldn’t stop talking/thinking/singing of 
For years — but nevermind, it’s morning. Today 

I walked through Oakland and caught my reflection 
And thought that’s a future, and then that night I drove 
Down Adeline and thought Hey, I have years in me

As much time as this planet has, maybe. I’m not dead. 
The sweets taste sweet in my mouth. I’m trying harder 
Than you know not to be a self-help poet. I’m warning 
You. By the end I’m going to tell you how in the end 

I’ve elected air, how you should tell them, today I’ve 
My body, blinking, in the air, and if the air does right 
By me maybe it will be back again tomorrow, and if not 
May I stay through grief, may I see the blood brained 

In the mirror and wash, for you, this is what I wish. 
Something happened between the long drive home 
And didactic art. Something came between me this 
Morning as I was slipping on myself. My friend slips 

His father into a t-shirt after surgery. My roommates 
Are in love, undramatically. This is the part where 
I’m listing all the things that are beautiful in my world. 
Does it make you sad to know? I’m trying to peel 

This back for you. It’s a stubborn-stemmed banana. 
It’s a tough one. Did you know bananas are berries? 
I’m speaking to you plain as I can so you feel closer 
To me, not farther. You deserve all the closeness you 

Can bear. I burned for years chasing my father 
Into the sun. It was only half his fault. Really. 
I used to hate everyone for who they weren’t. 
Some smaller part of me still does. I’m sorry. 

Not one by one, but all at once, lights flicker on
In the marshes. I love what they’re doing with 
The place. I’m scared. Some people make it 
So easy. The way this afternoon’s early golden 

Light came through the glass and lit up Eric 
On the couch and it let me look at him and 
I felt it all so easy; listen. So quiet. So still. 
Yuvi comes down the stairs and hugs him 

And the air around her vibrates and the air 
Around him hardly wiggles at all but look 
At how we both look at their sweet breathing 
In this near evening together. Look at how 

They look at one another, together, and we 
Can watch this, and it can all be okay. If I 
End on this image, it can all be okay. Under- 
Stand? No mystery. Not here. Only these 

Small beats between hearts you’re maybe a bit 
Too good at noticing. Dear, you could stand 
To lean the other way. Sorry, I’m looking 
For who you aren’t again. Making up stories. 

The berries are peeled. Breakfast is ready. Standing 
Here like this I feel like your childhood friend’s 
Parents, after the sleepover. You know, the ones 
You never did tell; they were your parents, too.1  

1 That’s all. You can tell them now. You should. 

Benjamin Bartu is a poet & writer. He is the author of the chapbook Myriad Reflector (2023), runner-up for the Poetry Online Chapbook Contest. His poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net, and his writing has appeared in The Journal, nat.brut, Guesthouse, Adroit Journal, & elsewhere. He lives in Oakland, California.