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Ira Desmond Mar 25
When your sister
died, it was the blue
box of Kraft Macaroni and
Cheese. Your half-
sister from your
father’s previous
marriage cooked it up
for you—she was only
a year or
two older than
you were—and you fell
asleep there on the
floor, where it remained half-
finished for the entire
night. When you
awoke the next
day, before you had even
opened your eyes, you 
thought for a brief
moment that maybe it
had all been just
an dreadful nightmare, but
then you opened them and
there the macaroni and
cheese still sat, half-
eaten on that paper
plate. No—
it had all
actually happened.

When your coworker
fatally poisoned
herself, you made
up your mind to
buy the nicest
ingredients you could
find and to cook the best
Italian pasta recipe you could
think of in order to
show your family
how much you loved
them. You wanted to be
present with them, to be still
alive with them. You
wanted to not
make the same
mistake twice, but
then there you were
at dinner, distant
for the entire
meal, unable to even
make simple
conversation, ashamed of
the awful contortions your
brain was doing in
order to process
your guilt over
her death.

When your father
died, it was some left-
over soup you had cooked
up a week prior. You were
embarrassed about how
the black-eyed peas and
sweet potatoes were now overdone, and
you apologized to your
wife for their mushiness,
and she smiled sadly and told
you it was the best
soup she had ever
tasted. After a week in
the refrigerator, the kale
tasted slimy. The soup was
overhot; its texture,
nonexistent. By
this point in your life, the
texture of nearly
everything—even that
of death—had become
wholly unremarkable
to you.

And when your old
friend from college
died, there was
no meal at all—just
a hasty cup of black
coffee you poured
yourself right before the
big work presentation
began. The text
message said that
he had thrown
himself from atop a
skyscraper in lower
Manhattan, and that
he had finalized his
divorce just a few
months prior. You
thought about calling
off the meeting, but your
boss said that he
would be in
attendance and, grimly,
you decided to swallow
your bitter emotions
right along with the
coffee—you didn’t
want to let
him down.
Ira Desmond Nov 2021
The fruit of
the Pacific madrone
tree may at
first entice you
with its ripe,
fiery, scarlet skin.

But bite into
this fruit, and
you’ll taste an
astringent, gristly pith
with hard seeds
like children’s teeth.

You will know
the foolish feeling
that lurks within
that yawning gap
between sugary expectations
and bitter reality.
Ira Desmond Oct 2021
Seasons change
and daylight burns
and shadows move
across the world,

and if you yourself
don't move as well,
those shadows may
pass over you.

If you yourself
don't move as well,
those shadows may
pass over you.
Ira Desmond May 2021
Whales were,
above all else,
deliberate

about the pace
with which they
moved through the world,
conscientious,
perhaps to a fault,
about the economy of movement
required to propel
such incredible mass over such
enormous, empty spans
of open ocean.

Here is a humpback whale
resting, face-down
staring into the cerulean
abyss, alone
but singing, perhaps for
enjoyment, perhaps out of
boredom, or perhaps due to
loneliness and longing.

She twists
and turns a single eye up toward
the surface, her iris catching  
sunbeams and contracting,
as she gauges
the gargantuan effort she must exert
in order to gain her next breath.
In this case, she concludes that, yes,
the effort will be worth it.

But what you must know about
whales is that
on rare occasion,
they would cast these concerns
of intentionality and efficiency aside,
and choose to
activate the entirety of their being,
from the sinews to the soul,
and propel themselves,
heedlessly and at top speed
toward, through, and past the surface of the ocean,
as though they were attempting to
fully take flight,
to escape, with finality,
the cold confines of their known existence,
the omnipresent, furrowed gaze of the void below.

But invariably,
and in spite of their best efforts,
the whales would be pulled
back downward,
by forces they could not
fully comprehend,
sure as the tides would fall shortly after
the moon passed overhead.

Yes, the physical impact of colliding
with the surface of the ocean
would be painful for the whales,
but what hurt
so much more than that
was having to return
to the stark, lonely calculus
of whether or not
to keep going.
Ira Desmond Jan 2021
As we got older, it became clear
that we wouldn’t have the luxuries

of drink without worry,
of sleep without restlessness,

of raising children
without fear for their survival.

It became clear
that we would never garner

the respect of our elders
no matter how dearly we pined for it,

and that the world itself
would smolder

while those responsible
rested comfortably in their graves,

and those of us to whom
our forebears’ sins were bequeathed

would be left to choke on the smoke
and ashes

of a promise to posterity
allowed to burn instead.
Ira Desmond Jan 2021
A clock
is not a thing
that shows us the passage of time;

a clock
is a primitive device that moves
at a fixed rate while time passes all around it.

Time
was drawn and quartered
by the clock. It used to be an endless horizon in all directions,

but it was violently
partitioned into a grid system
in order to make it easier for those with power

to control
those without power. Clocks are
perverse. Clocks are capitalism. Clocks

**** nature
without nature’s consent. We rightly complain
about the partitioning and deforestation of wild lands,

of the Amazon,
and yet we are not outraged
at the partitioning and deforestation of time. There is

a reason
why one feels out of sync
with the natural Earth. There is a reason why one

cannot sleep
through the night. There is
a reason why the years feel like they are

slipping away
from us. Time is not
sand in an hourglass. Nor is it an etching demarcating

the position
of a shadow cast by a cone. Nor is it
the rate at which an electrified quartz crystal oscillates.

Rather,
time moves at the speed
of experience. There is simply nothing more

to it:

A morning fog lifts.
A bird lands on a dying tree on the far side of a river.

A frog leaps from a rock and disappears with a quiet splash.
A child dozes off while reading.

The world becomes dark.
A white-hot meteor streaks across a frozen winter sky.
Ira Desmond Sep 2020
We know that to look now would set us ablaze,
the projectionist has loaded up the next reel,
but still we can’t seem to avert our gaze.

The clumsiest cinema still often sways.
The sound may be garbled, the edits piecemeal,
but we know that to look would still set us ablaze.

We question ourselves as the velvet drapes raise—
the playhouse itself thus begets our ordeal—
but still we can’t seem to avert our gaze.

The schoolmarms all warned us against such forays,
having seen how the real sinks into the surreal.
Yes, we know that to look now will set us ablaze.

Now the actors all shout patriotic clichés,
and we balk at the film’s jingo-populist zeal,
Even still, we can’t seem to avert our gaze.

Transfixed by tricolor and beset with malaise,
but what truths did Lot’s wife’s noncompliance reveal?
For we know that to look now will set us ablaze,
but still we can’t seem to avert our gaze.
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