sporklet 15

Angie Mazakis

High, Higher, Highest

From space, the sky is a tiny, thin line that just barely holds on

to the surface of earth. From earth, on a cloudless day, the sky

is endless. At the sushi place, I can’t hear the waitress.

It sounds like she trained many years to keep her voice

this quiet. Shanley and I switch seats, so I don’t have to see

the devastation on TV, and when I turn around to look

at the screen, there is a twelve-year-old girl on the news

who is the youngest to climb the highest peaks in the country.

The closed captioning is delayed, so under her picture, it says,

“Judge, Jury, Executioner.” The news reports that at the town

meeting they voted to cut the third floor and higher

off buildings so the airplanes could get closer, and they voted

to get rid of the present, since the past just runs right into the

future anyway. I failed to cast my vote, because I was missing

some key pieces of information like how many galaxies remain

undiscovered, what are all the causes of collective self-deception,

and where is your wife when you text me all night? I leave my wallet

and phone on the sink in the restaurant bathroom while I walk

over to get a paper towel to say, “I trust you. I trust every one

of you.” Not the you standing there, but the you I’m picturing

who showed up accidentally in the background of a stranger’s

photo. Then I put three things on the counter and wonder if it

is enough for it to feel like home. I try to feel it. How many things

would it take? I go outside, stand in the well-groomed landscape

of the restaurant entrance, staring at the little stones placed around

the mulch, trying to really occupy the unused bench, and then I

picture it as a crime scene. How little the stones would matter then,

how beside the point the stupid mulch with someone murdered in

the kitchen, someone else running. And then it’s back to a normal

make-believe scenery, but it feels like it has seen something or could

see something, is a candidate for something to see, as I put my hands

behind my back to hide any incriminating evidence, and I remember

that once a cop slipped handcuffs on me and I slipped my wrists right

out of them, but before anyone noticed, I just slipped them right back

in. When people feel threatened, they have an urge to lift their feet,

I think as I lean back on the unnecessary bench and lift my feet toward

the god of forgetting to water the plants, the god of low checking

account balance alerts. One astronaut said, When we went to the moon,

our focus was on the moon. We weren’t thinking of looking back on the earth,

but it may have been the most important reason we went. No matter how

much courage I try to muster, my feet remain elevated without my

permission, like an astronaut’s tears accumulating in their lower eyelid,

and never falling, because, well, in space, tears never fall.

Angie Mazakis is the author of I Was Waiting to See What You Would Do First, chosen by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2020 Miller Williams Prize and published by University of Arkansas Press. The book was also a finalist for the National Poetry Series. Her poems have appeared in The New Republic, Boston Review, The Iowa Review, Best New Poets, Washington Square Review, Columbia JournalIndiana ReviewLana Turner Journal, Nat. Brut and other journals. She is a PhD student in creative writing at Ohio University.