Jordan Charlton

I Tell You the Past Is Somewhere We Look When Imagining Costs Too Much

Please don’t ignore me—
   I’m not where I want to be,
      although I don’t know where that is

yet. This city and its cottonwood trees
   has become some strange home for me
      I’m afraid I might never escape.

If I planted a seed in the earth,
   I would bring to you the first fruits,
      my soil-stained hands smelling

like labor and desire, what every living creature
   reeks of at least once before dying.
      At least once before dying,

I hope to know that my worry can be curtailed.
   Maybe with a language written outstretched
      by a finger, like a toddler’s painting, or

something smaller like the pit in the middle
   of a peach, the core of an apple hidden
      beneath its flesh.

This past summer, I died in the end of most of my dreams.
   I’d wake to the silence of absence, of restless night.
      They are not the same, but they’d feel similar.

No one to tell. No one to wake with me,
   in this city. No one who held me in the quiet sweat
      my fear draped over me.

Jordan Charlton is a poet and Ph.D. student in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he teaches in the Institute for Ethnic Studies and serves as Associate Nonfiction Editor for Prairie Schooner. A Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets nominee, his writing has been published or is forthcoming in Atticus Review, The Adroit Journal, Quarter After Eight, Ruminate, The Journal, West Branch, and elsewhere. In addition to his academic pursuits, he works with the Nebraska Writers Collective as a teaching artist facilitating workshops with both high school poets and incarcerated writers through the programs Louder Than a Bomb: Great Plains and Writers’ Block.