I always have to sit facing the door and
Years ago, I knew a comic who wouldn’t shake hands

By Ron Riekki

I always have to sit facing the door 

“the wise world should look into your moan,
–William Shakespeare,
sonnet LXXI

because the door is where the escape is
and the escape is where the life is
because the life is where the breathing is,
and I know a lot of dead people by this time
in my life, a pile of names from high school
and a handful of names from the military
and a couple names from being an EMT
and then the relatives who’ve disappeared
like magicians are everywhere and then
the neighbors who leave so quietly, as if
they never existed, and here I am, facing
the door when the door is just a door and
death is everywhere, waiting in the darkness
and, truth be told, also right there in the light.

Years ago, I knew a comic who wouldn’t shake hands

I remember when he’d take the stage
and refuse to touch the mic.
All those mouths that’d been so near it.

And then his jokes.
None of them were funny

and so he got a lot of work,
because, I found out, headliners like
when the opening act sucks,

how it makes them look so much better.
And there I was, working

on my jokes,
shaking all those hands
and nothing happened for me.

And just last month, even with COVID
hovering around forever,
there he was, in a movie, a small role,

but a role, and
in the scene, he shakes someone’s hand,

and me, realizing, how the impossible
can happen, how the impossible
always happens, over and over again.

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