Showcase Showdown

by Matthew Gilbert

I use the word ‘tantalizing’ because I know
what it means now,
                                    drinking sangria all day
until it’s again day and piecing together

the hours, my memories capture the emotion
of dawn but not
                                    its detail, like tinted
film in old movies where they needed night.

Some guy juggled fire in our kitchen—
I remember, a match
                                    lighting in my skull—
and it painted us into shadows, immune

to everything except the sun coming up,
and we threw open
                                    the windows to scream
things we couldn’t during the day, like,

Fucking you feels like jumping in a taxi and yelling
‘Follow that taxi!’
                                    That after we walked
through the street’s soft peach evening light

looking at all the beautiful yards for flowers
we wanted to come back
                                    and steal at night.
It feels so long since everything caught sun

like it wasn’t trying to run, and day-drunk
we jumped off
                        the couch to yell
answers at game shows when asked

what we would give for this life, and for
the one that comes
                                    after, ugly crying
over a jet ski because once you have been

in love, the rest of your life is accepting
you don’t get to feel it
                                    all the time, always.
My Sunday school teacher was right when

she explained that Hell is pitch darkness
where fire constantly
                                    burns the flesh, but
never consumes it. And it lasts longer

than it would take a bird to carry all the sand
on Earth
                                    to the moon
one grain at a time. After a million trips

the suffering won’t be even a fraction
of the way done—
                                    so yes,
I know now how it feels to be so close.

Matthew Gilbert’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming from PANK, Sugar House Review, Powder Keg, Columbia Poetry Review, and elsewhere. They live in Connecticut and measure the general success of life by the ratio of trees to people wherever they happen to be.