2022
Pushcart Prize Nominee

Doug Van Hooser

Hope never took the bait

I have so many things I haven’t done that I need to discard

Old newspapers stacked like accomplishments

Unread books staring out the window

Learning I never learned everything there is to know

 

Bright as the sun blinded me

I caught one pass over my head, it took two hands

I got lucky more than once

Unlucky more than twice

 

Worked like a dog, rewarded like a rat

Pats on the back left a bruise

Knowing the heavy branches did not bend under my weight

Top of the pile is not top of the pyramid

 

Myopic in one eye, the hyperopic one drifted off

Focused on stratocirrus desire, cumulous satisfaction

Achievement in small bites, disappointment in gulps

Threads twisted in knots too tough to unravel

 

Concentric circles orbit the years

Intimacy afraid to touch me

Dalliance sour milk

Shame a pair of mittens

 

Confidence rarely takes a chance

Loneliness a raked pile of leaves

Depression has no depth perception

I am sewn in patches

 

Simplifying is survival of the fittest

Casting without allure I caught what I expected

Shuffled the cards and repeated the error

My mistake: optimism, hope’s grindstone

 

Still, I tug on the sword in the stone

Look to the horizon and swear it is closer

Leave footprints in the sand every time the tide goes out

Sharpen the knife and test its edge

 

Go forward without looking left or right

Bargain with the devil but refuse his best offer

Convince myself the water is not that deep

I cannot swim but manage to float

 

Now I know the secret

The key I was given never fit the lock