Oceana Callum


          after Sharon Oldsʼ “One Secret Thing”:
                    the four
              corners of the room were not creatures, were not
              the four winds of the earth, if I did not
              do this

I performed the secret act
the night Bobby Jones died, we were
eighteen. I knew it should happen—
I knew he was still around, hanging out,
wanting to toss a ball or something but
everyone had gone crazy. And the car
waited for me outside, arthritic old
steed glowing tiredly white and I opened
the passenger door. Bobby slid in,
rubber grace of the town’s best athlete.
I had once said, loveyoumorethanfriends.
His eyes were lagoon-colored. It was late.
The frogs were screaming. I watched myself
drive us to the outskirts of town, the town
aging around us, sleeping as it aged.
Who would I be if I did not do this—
I pulled up to the causeway where frats
had gathered skull-sized boulders so they
could proclaim in rock letters to the whipping
cars above, ∑N, ∏KA. A train went by,
right through me and Bobby disappeared.
I shone the headlights up the concrete slope.
Each boulder I lifted tried to tear me off
at the shoulders. And then I worked
for myself, for the notion that I could be
loved, I positioned, repositioned, dirty,
scratched, sweating, alone, four a.m.
The secret I did not know then
was how easily I would fall every time
for truants, bartenders, marines,
joining orbits by habit, scraping
my hands and ripping my fingernails,
as the boulders formed a tribute
to how hard I would work for love:
B, as the sun came up, J.

Born in the Costa Rican jungle, Oceana Callum holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from California State University, Long Beach. Her most recent poetry publications are in Making Up (Picture Show Press, 2020) and the Cider Press Review Volume 18, Issue 4. She lives in Oceanside, CA.


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