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NOW

November 14th, 2021

Poems by Carter Cumbo

Artwork by Maddy Meredith

My inner turmoil has a turnstile and a funhouse mirror,

which is cliche, my inner turmoil is cliche. It is a museum full of blurry polaroids

where I am apologizing to someone uncaptured.

Is an amusement ride that I hate but hadn't the heart to tell my parents. I continue my regular purchase of a one-way ticket. I return to the front

of a long line.

 

The world is growing,

 I am growing... I am in love and not in love,

 

I have stopped eating eggs in the morning,

I’ve begun drinking kale.

 

No one on the road trusts,

the intersections are warzones… the Lincoln doesn’t wait their turn, the Corolla relents… nobody looks at each other.

 

The new sandwich shop owner with a twinkle in her eye… ogles the business casual

      regulars,

their faux leather loafers and sweaters bloomed with collars.

 

The housing project on the west end—four years in construction—is complete. 

 

The new tenant nods-out as the lease… dictated aloud, is as information through a clogged drain, he hears

a phrase about dumpster etiquette… something about 7am and 10pm,

It’s a new construction and he is the only tenant on the floor. It's a new construction and the tenants’ first home in seven years.

 

The landlords and case managers chirping around his slowly descending head, he is what

they call a Long-Term Stayer… because the shelter was his home

before the new home… and its 80-page lease.

 

The landlord immerses his hands in a tenant’s fish tank, it is too many gallons,

   the water makes his hand look enormous.

 

The landlord finds roaches… the tenants receive a violation.

The violation leads to another, the tenants call to move

in their cousin,

 

and report another neighbor in distress.

They are the properties’ eyes.

 

Another tenant brings in a procession of people with backpacks

and facial sores, the cameras record them... the other set of eyes.

 

The landlord calls them again… meets them, deescalates, promises patience and

overdelivers.

Soon after, the custodian cleans urine in the laundry room from a guest… the culprit had a backpack and pajama bottoms on.

 

The landlord calls Avian Haven again… to explain that pigeons are not pets, to free a bird

From captivity.

    

  One tenant has enough saved to buy a house... the next summer they do.

The violation leads to another, the tenants call to move

In their cousin,

 

And report another neighbor in distress.

They are the properties’ eyes.

 

Another tenant brings in a procession of people with backpacks

And facial sores, the cameras record them... the other set of eyes,

 

The landlord calls them again… meets them, deescalates, promises patience and

Overdelivers.

Soon after, the custodian cleans urine in the laundry room from a guest… the culprit had a backpack and pajama bottoms on,

 

The landlord calls Avian Haven again… to explain that pigeons are not pets, to free a bird

From captivity.

    

  One tenant has enough saved to buy a house... the next summer they do.

//
 

Then come down

         In the shit with me.

  

Wade here, push off the wall, hold your arms forward like you are fallen.

 Push your breasts through the water.

 

Be here. Be still, feel the old rot… I made you a flower out of shit,

 the stem is made of shit, too.

         My hands appear caked in shit,

         but to their core they too are shit.

 

The floor is an endless membrane of shit… sink in, it’s like the softened brain

of a career drunk. I call it delirium,

it is smooth like rotten wood floors in a Baltimore bando.

 

Well… that description was shit

in execution,

         shit in persuasion.

My excuses are:

         The whole reason you are down

here is because you love me.

         The reason I am down here is

because I don’t love myself

         enough to leave.

 

There are many, endless piles

  Of shit depths like this one here.

 

I am not resigned to the shit.

I tell you

         leaving the shit involves shit, it’s so dark in here.

   Perhaps when the lights finally go up and everyone claps

I'll notice this is not shit at all… but pudding.

 

And you look at me while drawing lines underneath your

  eyes with pudding like some dessert warrior

and you smile and say… see, it’s not so

bad down here.