Step Two: Higher Power
By Hala Alyan
For a while it was easy as inventing an oak tree:
start from the top and worry your way down the trunk.
Or a new continent, emerging green and deserted after
years on water, the simple rapture of the higheway going coast
to coast with more America than any of us ever wanted.
I guess you could say I love this city like I love prickly pears,
which is to say, not very much, or only when I’m starving.
My friend sends me photographs of the plane crash
in Curaçao and says they’re opening a restaurant there,
people eating among the dead, which I find gruesome,
but she says isn’t Manhattan built on a slave cemetary,
and every time I’m in an airport I see all the unmade beds,
the houseplants too shriveled to save. I’m afraid of sleep this week.
Next week it’ll be something else: mosquitoes, black holes,
the snap of fireworks from one rooftop to another.
It’s like how I liked about getting sober: it was hard.
I’d pretend it was a road trip, that I’d be drinking again
on Saturday, and the Mondays and Wednesdays would tick by
until it was Saturday, and I’d lie to myself again,
it’s too humid to drink today, I’ll drink tomorrow,
and tomorrow would be my mother’s birthday, then
Monday would arrive like an artless, triling wife.
This is how a year passed, with hundreds of lies,
like that midnight walk in the French countryside dark,
my sister giggling nervously, no streetlamp for miles,
one footstep after the other, and the only way out ahead.