three poems

by Todd Dillard

New-Hearted Just when you’re squinting at the light in the hospital cafeteria, trying to lasso a sentence around how it limns your–what? sadness?– a boy sits at the next table over and says: “Why can’t I be a daredevil when I grow up?” His mother slides into the seat beside him, sets down their tray of food. “Your heart was someone else’s first,” she says. He frowns, old enough to suspect this means his dream will float forever out of reach, too young to know how to lower his hand. He asks: “Will my new heart learn to love pizza the way I love pizza?” “I’m sure it already does,” his mother says. “What if my new heart loves pineapple?” “I’m sure it won’t.” And then, just when you can’t take it any longer, can’t stand any more soggy stir fry or football scores or grocery lists, the boy says: “How does my new heart already know to love you?” His mother folds a napkin over her calzone, tells him he has to eat to keep his new heart strong. Your legs carry you to the exit, up the elevator, into the blue room. You tiptoe to the aquarium of glass and steel where your baby girl is busy breathing the air of her fourth day. Across the pane your breath spreads its tablecloth. In its bloom you draw the word: “Hi.” You dot the “i” with a lopsided heart, which leaks, then disappears.   All My Friends Have Great Taste in Music My soul is like a house, small for you to enter, but I pray you to enlarge it. -St. Augustine of Hippo All my friends have great taste in music so they would probably blanch at my soul, which is similar to a terrible pop song in how it began with a warbled, acapella note ferried forward by the clubhouse beat of this grinding, sweaty-allegro rhythm I call my pulse. My soul is shameless, lousy with saxophone solos, each a Cutco-edged elegy for life- slicing moments of grief or glory– first kisses beneath Galveston piers; serrated hours inside my newborn’s ICU room. Friends, forgive me the tribal drums of love that thump against my ribs when I think of you. Forgive me the occasional anecdote delivered as a rapping breakdown. Forgive me for never saying what I want to say, like how when I mumble ‘forgive me’ I really mean ‘let’s dance.’ If your soul is a sparrow, perch it on my shoulder, let’s dance. If your soul is a sealed black box, let’s lift it from smoldering ruins, bless it with a lower lip bit, a cabbage patch, a sprinkler, a shopping cart, a too-lifelike robot, a self-mocking Macarena. Let’s dance. Put your hands in the air, because you care, you really do; in fact maybe my soul isn’t a terrible pop song at all, maybe it’s a club and you’re raising the roof inside me, you’re making in me more space, unhooking my red rope, ushering a few more folks in. What good is a fire code when the max occupancy is yes? Let’s dance. Let the lyrics of my soul be the names of those I love. Let my past become a myth of a silent, empty room.   Love Letter with Facts There is a lake so terrifically polluted a flock of geese landed in it and dissolved like Alka-seltzer tablets, but this is not why I am writing you. I am writing you because some bacteria found only in geese feast on the poisons in the lake, so in the far future it’ll be potable again. I’m writing you because a million light years away two black holes are shuffling around each other in a billion-year slow dance, and because there is an island in the Pacific three times the size of France made entirely of garbage. I am writing you because no man was an island until there was an island of refuse, in which case I am a tiny island nation thirsting for anthem. I am writing you because my brain hoists thoughts of you like flags, because your every ‘hello’ sucks my hand to my heart. I am writing you because one time we slow danced in pajamas, real slow, garlanded by our bodies’ hum, celestial music, our separate gravities looping into each other like the rings of a stage magician, and I know birds keep flying into my body and dying, I just needed to write you to say thank you for your stupid hat, your ugly cargo vest, your tackle box tangled with inside jokes and touch. Daily you cast that line into me, and daily I am grateful for the way you are sure this time, this time, you will pull up something bright. —
Todd Dillard’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications, most recently in FlapperhouseCotton XenomorphSuperstition Review, Nimrod, and Cease, Cows! He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter.
Artwork by: Alexis Avlamis Alexis Avlamis (b. Athens, 1979) is a painter influenced by the Surrealist’s Automatism. His work juxtaposes existing visuals with fabricated ones, leading to cosmographic mindscapes. His work has been exhibited and published internationally and is a Laureate of the International Emerging Artist Award in the Drawing and Illustration category. Links Website: Instagram: @alexisavlamis Twitter: @AlexiosAvlamis