The Day After

The Day After

My messages
all sound the same.

I’m sick
I can’t believe it
I’m crying
I don’t know what to do

All of us caught,
unprepared, unarmed.

Yesterday,
I deliberated for hours,
trying to choose the perfect
shade of red lipstick.

Another life.

Today, 7 AM,
I open my eyes.
In my head,
a song on replay.

Skeeter Davis,
The End of the World.

I find her on YouTube,
wondering pitifully
why the sun goes on shining.

Her blonde bouffant
held back by a barrette,
puffed sleeves as stiff
as her hair.
Midway, she stops singing,
begs the audience for answers.

Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these arms of mine cry?

The videos roll on.
Shelly Fabrares, Johnny Angel.
The Shirelles pleading
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Ronnie Spector, Be My Baby.

Every line a prophecy,
filled with longing.

I sit for hours,
glued to the screen.

Sweet innocence.
Or so it seems.

As a kid, I won
a WMCA Good Guy sweatshirt.

Bumblebee yellow,
down to my knees.

I remember my joy
at receiving this prize.

I won something. I won.

The day after,
I’m as lost as Skeeter
and her puffy sleeves.

The videos roll on.

Dee Dee Sharpe
teaches us the Mashed Potato.

Wasn’t she Carole King’s babysitter?
Not far from my old
Brooklyn neighborhood.

Is this what I will remember?
Always?

There must be more,
there must be
vision beyond the gray
landscape, beyond
the murals desiccated
on East Broadway,
beyond the helicopters,
hovering.

Fuck you, Skeeter,
with your crying eyes.

Jimi, Janis, Brian.
Play for us.
Miles, Coltrane, sing.
Come back, David Bowie.
Come back, Prince.

It’s the day after.
No time to wonder why,
how, what, where, when,
and curse the sky.

Wisely, the sun and the stars
do not answer.
They leave it up to us.

It is quiet
on the day after.

No glass breaking
on this Kristalnacht.

Not yet.

I stand at the window,
watch the cars cruise
up the highway.
Subdued.

There are no boats
on the river.
No horns blaring.

My messages
all sound the same.

–Puma Perl