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  • Sketch with Yellow Asterisk, and: As One Stone May Be Used to Shape Another, and: Strange Shapes the Night Makes, and: Finches
  • Josh Booton (bio)

"It's funny. I've spent so many hours contemplating these poems, pacing the room as my Labradoodle cocked her head in wonder, and yet when someone asks me to write a few words about them, all I can say is, 'Um, I think they're about love?' If any attribute binds these four poems, it is their concern, to varying degrees, with the elegiac. Whether the subject is the recovery of a former student through a drawing ('Sketch with Yellow Asterisk'), or the childhood memory of a giant cage full of chirping birds ('Finches'), or my foray into menial labor and the people who populated that world ('Strange Shapes the Night Makes'), these poems, for me, attempt to both lament and briefly recapture what has been lost. Even a poem about a couple strolling by the ocean ('As One Stone May Be Used to Shape Another') seems as concerned with the irretrievable as with what persists between two people. But maybe that one is just about love."

  • Sketch with Yellow Asterisk
  • Josh Booton (bio)

for Tommy

What first strikes you is the scale, the man—we know he's a manbecause she's drawn a black hat—looms as tall as the house beside him, the womanin her triangle skirt to his left,half his height, and stationed slightly closerto the girl, a self-portraitwith a polka-dot rectangle dress and spaghetti hair.In reality, this girl beside me,with her consolation of crayons,has hair more russet, less curly, a nestof tangles I've never noticed. (In reality, this was years ago,the last time I saw her, thoughI still keep the picture in my bottom desk drawer.)Her figures all float a half inch abovethe grass, grass grown as long as the girl's legs,obscuring the thresholdof the door that leads, I would guess, to this very couch,this room littered with toys, coverless books, therapy equipment.I'm waiting for her mother, in the other room,to sign the papers so I can close the file.The girl hums beside me,adding a second green to the grass, two windowsthough this house has only one,a few birds just so we knowthe sky is there. Outside, the sky is almost paper-white,but more intricate, so many gradationsfrom cotton to milk to baby powderto that bluish white they paint dead people on TV.A man is walking his dog, a dachshund, like comic relieftoo early in the scene, and I want to follow themhome or out into the streets of Portlandwhere people areeating pastries or waiting for the busor singing badly a pop song while they drive. I want [End Page 24] to ignore the box of donated clothes his mother handed me,each item folded with carelike a memory, to leave this room behind,one-dimensional as the picture the girltells me is finished. There are flowers nowbecause, in childhood, it is always or almostspring. She's added a chimney with smoke, I'll sayto symbolize the fire at the heart of things.And in the background, atop a small, floating hill, morechimneys or upright cigarettes,the same smoke snaking skyward in the same smoke-gray shade,and one tiny star, an asterisk in canary yellowoff to the side. I'll ask her now, for you,what it's supposed to be, though I remember clearlythat yellow sweatshirt he always wore,and how she told me, That's Tommy.Mom says he's with Grandma and Grandpa now.And when I hesitated, still unsure of what she'd drawn,she added, They live in Pittsburgh.And so I'm writing thisbecause I found the picture yesterday while hunting for thumb tacksand remembered himgrowing thin, and thinner, and now so thinhe can live inside this picture his sister drew.And now I can almost convince myselfshe's right: the dead...


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