Kaitlyn Duling

Paris Doesn’t Inspire You

You begin with love, you end with love, and you wake. Because paper cuts, pencil tips and useless moleskin notebooks, you touch your tongue to your nose, stack your erasers and wonder how to say anything worthwhile about about soaring above the clouds that doesn’t include the phrase “soaring above the clouds.” You would like some ginger ale to put yourself in an airplane mood. You know that a mood does not a poem make so you stare the desk; you saw through it with you retinas. Somewhere, roads are diverging in a yellow wood and you don’t care. Nights you pace aisles buying cheap pens in bulk packages, slinging them into backs of carts. Your life is not sad enough or happy enough. Because you never appreciated the ones you were supposed to appreciate, and you enjoyed the Hallmarks most of all, you can’t sleep. You buy more pens and chew the caps; you line up one hundred capless pens and name them. You know it does not come like the tides; you cannot schedule the saving of the world. Sometimes you write poems about the way a thumb presses into a cheek with concentration, producing a thumb-blush just there, just for a moment. Other times, you cannot stop pressing.

 

Not a guide to stain removal

Grass stains. Blood stains. Bleach on teeth or denim. And freckles. And dimples near the small of your back. And red streaks on white skin in tight spaces. The moment I realize you love me or you don’t. The best damn chocolate cake you’ll ever have. The recipe. The night your father walked away; the night everyone walked away, or seemed to. The morning after, or every morning after, or upon waking. The scar on the side of your left foot from something you don’t remember. Fingerprints in wet clay. Carpet burns. The first moment you saw mountains. Laughter that turned to crying. Tears on shoulders of strangers. One year after your father died. Wrinkles on pillows in bedrooms that cannot, will not be smoothed. The day you became a parent. The moments you wanted to hit your child. Your child. A smooth stone. Water on rocks, rocks on soil, soil on the knees of your khakis when you drop. Ink on paper, especially. Paring knives in ripe apples; potato peelers in hands. Hands on anyone. Rock n’ roll music. That space in the center of your collar bone, just below the throat. The moment you press into life, tender and deliberate, with just enough pressure to feel it pulsing back.

 

Things to do when your rich uncle is dying

Drive to a town curled into a cliff. Call it charming. Call your cousins one by one and hang up after the third ring. Walk to the market and pretend to be deaf when the clerk asks you Paper or Plastic? Walk along sidewalks overlooking an ocean with a name you don’t remember. Call your wife and ask her What if I had gills? Open a bottle of beer; after three sips, pour it down the drain.

Count your bottle cap collection by fives. Call your best friend from high school and talk about high school. Drive to the country to meet a man who sells beachwood in his front yard. When he picks some up, tell him No thank you. Order take-out on your motel bed, watch politicians on television. Rest your eyes and almost

fall asleep. Go jogging until you worry when your breath is short. Go to your uncle. Hold his hand, hold your hands, eat fruit salad with marshmallows, mouth words to hymns you will sing again later. On the porch, call telemarketers to ask for a job. Sit with a cigarette, then with family. After quiet comes, wait to hear about the will. Wonder why there are no seasons on this coast. When the money doesn’t appear, go for a drive. When it never does, keep driving.

 

Kaitlyn Duling grew up in Paxton, Illinois. She is majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Religious Studies at Knox College in Galesburg, IL. Kaitlyn is an active campus leader with a passion for poetry and nonfiction. After graduating, she hopes to pursue work in the non-profit sector. Mostly, she wants to make poems that make you smile.