By Juliana Spahr
Sometimes it feels like it is over and it’s not.
Sometimes it feels like it has just begun and it’s over.
It’s dark often at these times.
Urban though, so a certain version of light too.
It’s hard to predict if it will start on time or how late.
I’m often a little late and it has started. Last night, I could tell from the
copters overhead that I was late.
As I walked up, the blocks around it were emptying out.
Parents pulled their children home.
The night herons settled into trees.
That’s the outer ring.
As I got closer, all that was left were the blinking lights of the motor-
cycles blocking the intersections and the men and few women in
uniforms that mill about the corner, helmets in their hands. They
talked among themselves. Ignored me mainly. One told me how to
get around. I did not clarify that I was walking towards.
You can hear it sometimes. It often has a soundtrack. Sometimes it has
drums and brass. Sometimes just joy.
When I am late I am trying to guess its path. Last night, several times I
got close to it only to be turned back by a line of cops.
They let the media through but turned me back.
Then it turned the corner and there it was.
At that moment, I melted my body into it and it embraced me.
Rosy fingered dusk and all that.
Come here, it sang, listen.
And then I was borne along by the waves all night and the whirlpool,
the fig tree, and I was the bat, hanging on patiently.
Aarav came up and hugged me.
Someone grabbed me from behind and I thought it is Artem but later
realized it was Berat. So much mask.
I grabbed Charlotte’s hand and held it for a while when things felt
It felt dicey as they cornered us from two sides and we went down the
tight side street, up the hill. Charlotte’s hand.
It’s like that.
Moving from isolation to the depths of friends.
At first we didn’t mask up. We were poets.
Then slowly one by one we did.
As we got turnt.
As I got turnt I mean.
Sometimes I still don’t mask up. It often feels hubristic.
I keep a bandana in my pocket.
It isn’t super effective. It falls down a lot.
Last night, I tied it around my neck as we walked up the side street hill.
I pulled it over my face as I walked past the line of cops. I noticed
Emma there, throwing eggs. I ducked. Two balloons filled with
paint flew by. Visors suddenly yellow.
She said to me, how is your heart?
And I at first worried her question.
Then I realized she meant my heart and how it was turnt.
It is good, I said, I am opening it; I am expanding it.
And I meant it.
I love you I texted Felix.
Lub u!!!!!! I texted Haruto.
Texting Isabella and Jackson, I love you guys.
I miss you.
I texted love you some forty-three times in the last few years.
I texted <3 some thirty-three times.
Lub u, eighteen times.
Miss you, thirty-eight.
She said your feed is all riots, plants, picnics, and poets.
It was an accusation.
She was noticing that I had got turnt.
And I said, my son, my son is in my feed too.
I didn’t bother to argue the riot with her.
Still, oh that moment.
I was at the poetry reading and Mia didn’t go. She was supposed to
read too but she didn’t. She said she wanted to see what happens.
Then she texts I love you and I know then that Trader Joe’s has
been looted. All the wines out in the street.
Such sweet elixir, FOMO.
Then the rest of that night.
We quickly say good-byes after the reading, refuse the offer of going to
drinks, careen from the reading to our home. One of us on twit-
ter the entire time. Texting too. While we are driving, one of us at
home runs out into the streets, towards the gas. I drive up and two
of us get out of the car and I stay in the car and drive the few blocks
home. My son has fallen asleep in the back. I am coughing in the
car from the gas. He sleeps through it. I take him out and carry him
up to bed. More texts. I love you, I text. Come by and get me when
you are done.
Later that night, I go out again. Miguel stays home with Minjoon. I go
to a fight party; Marxist v. Nihilist. No one knows which is which.
Mohamed, my fighting teacher, fights. I miss it. I love you I text.
She texts back I’m high on being slugged; my eyes are swollen; I
lost; I’m turnt.
Standing outside, a woman gets kicked out of the club. The bouncer
tosses her out and into us. She is fucked up. And this feels awful to
her. Her arms wildly swinging indicate this awful feeling. It feels
awful to us. Another woman tries to help her and she slugs her. She
misses and the woman who she has tried to slug takes her, calms
her down. I hear her saying I love you, I love you over and over.
Later I will learn that she spent the entire night talking the woman
down. It’s like that. When turnt, sometimes one needs to be held.
Still later, I stand on the street, outside my house and watch the
t-mobile get looted. A man tries to stop another man who has
his hammer at the ready in front of the window. The man who is
attempting to stop the hammer gets hit in the face with the butt
of the hammer. I decide to go to bed. It is 3 am. I text Nathan and
say I love you and I’ll leave the key in the box for you. The march
continues on, Nathan continues on, turns left a block away and
then when Nathan texts me back I know the Whole Foods is looted
and they are all drinking champagne, dancing. All of them will get
a cold later.
Riot champagne becomes a term among us that winter.
I wasn’t there but I was there too. My germs were there.
I too had that cold.
Is this poem too heroic?
I am sorry.
I worry it is.
Or I know it is.
We are turnt to mere vandals at moments. I’ll admit it.
Every computer in that shop.
Every phone in that one.
Every car in that car lot.
I don’t want it to be heroic but last night I turned the corner and Nor
was there with her bike and when I saw her I said I love you and
we walked down the street as each window was cracked. They got
turnt. Eventually we disperse. I jog for a few minutes away and out
of the kettle. We joke, circle back to watch a car burn. Oliver walks
by. He is hurrying towards the dispersal. I love you we say to him as
he heads off. The car burns. The fire truck arrives. As I stand there
watching it, it is as if everyone I ever texted I love you to walks
by. I love you we call out to each other.
A group of women walk by the car and stop to take photographs. So
much joy they have. They are laughing with such triumph. Selfies
and all. Turnt.
This poem is true. I have texted I love you and its variations over
Sometimes I barely knew you.
But the names are not true.
This is not a coterie poem.
Is it a milieu poem?
Can it be a movement poem?
I took all the names of this poem and never wrote them in.
There is no electronic record of them.
I found a list of the most popular baby names for various countries in
2015, the year in which I am writing this poem. I made a list, one
male and one female from each list. Then I alphabetized it. And I
put those names in this poem one by one. I got to O.
But Olivia, Saanvi, Santiago, Seoyeon, Sofia, Yui, and Zeynep, I love