In between bands at my last Parlor Voice show before graduation,
I was explaining how I edited the audio from that section of the documentary I had been working on about the Women’s March on Washington, the part where Kendra says Fuck but she didn’t want to say Fuck if people were going to see it.
— not that she cares about swearing, she’s just sensitive of others
The trick I pulled was possible because she said Fight right after
so I smashed the F — from Fuck together with the — ight from Fight
which especially worked because her mouth was out of frame.
“It worked because Fuck and Fight
start with the same letter,” I explained.
And Daniel got that smirk he gets
— when he squints his eyes together and draws in a breath through his nose and lets out a small laugh as he nods
and he raised his right hand, pointing, saying:
“I want you to write a poem and use
that sentence as the prompt.”
And I broke a smile because I don’t
write poetry or swear that often
except for effect
or when I’m quoting something
or sometimes to impress somebody
or when I can’t help it.
Not that I’m afraid to swear — I think those
words are important and valid and necessary.
I swear all the time
And that’s when I caught Morgan’s eye
— she’s a real poet
and I wrote the prompt down
on a small sheet of paper
using the pen I always carry in my pocket
and I walked over to Morgan to give it to her,
hoping that we could both write poems
with the same prompt and compare.
She was in a circle of friends
and you were in that circle.
You would have been in that circle if you had been there.
But Morgan couldn’t read my handwriting
so I read it to her
which gave me a chance to say
Fuck loud enough for you to hear.
— not that I wanted to give you any ideas, I just wanted you to know I wasn’t afraid
That’s when Parlor Voice started to play “Lane Boy”
and I thought I needed to make a decision
but it was out of my hands.
I pulled my glasses off to clean them
because I touch my glasses too much
with my bare hands when I’m thinking
about something delicate
which causes my glasses to get blurry
early and often which keeps me from
seeing clearly almost always.
I could barely hear
not because it was quiet but because it was loud
and I wrestled inside,
song after song.
At the end of the set, you were gone
and I looked around, reeling,
realizing that I wasn’t there for you.
I realized that I was with friends in the best coffee shop in town
on my birthday
with less than a month left at school, less than a month left in Michigan
and my best friend drove me here
and that’s when Jackie said:
“Where’s Mike Lentz, I see him in the mirror but I can’t find him in real life.”
And I know it’s okay to
stand by myself
in a room full of people.
And across the room, there was a circle of friends talking
about how that same night two years ago
we saw Sufjan play Carrie & Lowell in a room full of stars
— and when I say stars, I mean the ceiling is covered in lights, but I also mean that I think each person is a star and that groups of people connect to form constellations and different people can be in different constellations, intersecting, and some people are part of constellations that other people will never know and sometimes some people discover that they’re in a constellation with just each other and maybe that’s what it means to have a soul mate, but I also mean that there were stars in your eyes that night or there would have been if you had been there
and I cried one real tear for the first time in college.
We recalled how the seats were assigned that night
so we couldn’t be together but we shared the room.
And everyone had shoulders to brush up against
even if they were strange shoulders
and that made us feel linked and inseparable and necessary.
I could tell when my neighbors were breathing or when they shifted position
which were signs that they were alive.
As I left the circle, I remember thinking:
— fuck and fight start with the same letter
but I’ve never done either of those things
with another person.