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Daniel Romo‘smost recent book is Apologies in Reverse (FutureCycle Press 2019). He holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, and he lives and teaches in Long Beach, CA.

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Tonight while reading my students’ homework I learned

whales can get sunburned, and the average person will

spend six months of their life waiting for red lights to turn green,

and during this election season it’s difficult to distinguish

just exactly what are the facts and whose opinions mean most

to voters who don’t even know the inventor of the Frisbee

was actually turned into a Frisbee, himself, after he died.

Most of the kids’ grades are low and just because I’m their

favorite teacher doesn’t guarantee a free pass, although

movie trailers originally played after the movie so perhaps

I should consider giving credit before their work is even due.

I know I will not vote for the candidate who has told more than

20,000 factchecked lies in the time it takes for a school year to

begin— and end— and begin again, but I didn’t know Scotland

has 421 words for snow and maybe if Arturo had confessed,

“I’m sorry, Mr. Romo. My paper got lost in a January flindrikin

and I just couldn’t seem to find it after shoveling the driveway,”

I would be more understanding in its absence.

The CIA has its own Starbucks, but the baristas don’t write

customers’ names on the cups and after work I labor over

writing poems so I can appreciate anonymity in the name of

protecting one’s personal and work life all in one.

But damnit if it isn’t nice to be recognized for what you do,

to be saluted for giving all you got even when you’re not certain

you possessed very much to begin with.

Tomorrow I will grade some more papers and even though I teach

English and not Biology, I might start a unit called Auditory Benevolence  

in which I tell the kids to close their eyes and place

a hand over their chests because if they listen hard enough, they can

hear a blue whale’s heartbeat from two miles away, and if he can be

that big and passionate about navigating through life,

so can we all.


I walked the perimeter of the furniture store

looking for a couch I already knew I wouldn’t buy

due to bad reviews I’d read online,

but I was already in the parking lot

and too often convenience

outweighs conscience.


The saleswoman told me,

That was fast, right before I exited,

and if I’d have been introspective enough

I would’ve responded,


      That’s what happens when you realize you deserve

      greater than upholstery that will cave in on you when

      you need a soft spot to rest more so than ever.


If only it were that easy to move in, around,

and back out of the lives of the ones we thought

were there for the betterment of our buoyancy,

but who actually allowed us to sink even deeper

into ourselves.


Funny how the plot of the movie I just saw about time travel

was too confusing to follow,

however maybe that’s the point,

not being able to retrace steps so you can forget

the way back to where it was

you were never meant to repair.


It’s as if the algorithms lined up to do—

something or other, and you were spared

to have been told nothing by your future self

that could alter the course of a purchase

you had to make

just so your words

could warn others.


The second baseman can no longer make

a simple throw to first

        without bouncing the ball in the dirt  

or chucking it in either direction down the line,

as if he can’t remember the mechanics of the relationship

        between father and son and their front yard

                              in the summers.  


The manager tells his guy to just play and relax whenever

his nerves hijack his talent

because overthinking has killed many a mood,

and a career.


Some claim it’s psychological,

that the brain ignores the trajectory of muscle memory

and no matter how many extra pre-game grounders

the player takes, the result will be the same,

          because despite our best intentions,

the mistakes we make in our lives are simply recorded as

       errors in any box score.


Sometimes when the ball is hit to me,

a sharp liner out to left field,

      I freeze when I know my wife is upset

      because I’m unsure what to say,

and my efforts at consolation end in a soft lob

that doesn’t nearly reach her

or a wayward rocket that hits her in the gut,

                  too hot for her to possibly handle.


We become scared to attempt the simple throws

when we forget the fundamentals,

when our minds and bodies convince each other

they aren’t on the same team and

the connection between the two is as distant as

hapless player and die-hard fan

screaming at the TV after yet

another letdown.            

The second baseman,

the newlywed husband,

the grizzled manager who knows from experience,

     sometimes you just gotta ride it out,

     let the ball go where it may

     understanding there’s always another season for redemption 

          just waiting on the next play.


What intrigues me most on my stroll around the park

is the group of geriatrics doing tai chi,

brittle limbs dancing in tune to a slow-motion



I admire their activity in a world of comfort which I imagine

helps them balance out the yin and yang of their golden years

filled with moments of tarnishment

and a longevity of luster.


   But I wonder what happens when they die,

and if they’re replaced by a younger, sprier senior,

or if that spot remains empty in tribute to a body

that stayed in motion up until the moment

life left.


   I’ve reached an age where my spine is no longer

   always aligned with the actions of my body,

   and my 40s is a race between preventing and treating

   lower back pain, and a weekly trip to the chiropractor

   is as satisfying as the well-done red meat I ate last night,

   as well as several nights before, which I know

   my doctor will politely point out at

   my next checkup.


But what’s a life without treating yourself for the

victories that may not have ever even seemed like 

potential battles, yet now present themselves each day,

such as nagging indigestion

   or a stubborn lumbar?

How many meals of baked potatoes and steak has the 

woman in the wheelchair waving her arms

like they’re taming the wind

eaten while not regretting

the contents of her menu?


     I hope I’m able to stand in a circle of my peers and

     practice an ancient martial art during my final days

     as a way to tell my body,

        Thanks for the protection, but it’s now okay

        to let go.

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