Menlo Park on New Year’s Day

by Emma Eisler 

What is another poem for nineteen? 

My body that hunkers down, remembers its old shape on my childhood bed

Longings left waiting on my pillow

What is another poem for New Year’s Day?

Frost on the grass in the morning that burns away 

California so the Pacific breathes salt over my skin

So I can tell you I am a mermaid and not feel like I am lying

Say look, look, look at me, race into the undertow and foam

Eat raspberries off each finger, drip juice onto the floor 

Paint my lips in popsicle syrup and imagine you kissing it away

Walking through five o’clock gold, 

So the cul-de-sacs by my house are cul-de-sacs where I lay in the backseats of cars

And the register in the bookstore remembers my fingers ringing up customers

What can I tell you that isn’t repetition? 

A boy once wanted to visit me here, lie with me in my room, 

Press his shoes to the pavement of my town and run his fingers through my hair—

Kelp soft in the bath as in the sea—

His lucky penny, dandelion-wish girl 

Stay away, I told him, what could possibly be here for you? 

Nineteen in my childhood room in my bed; does anyone ever feel ready for birthdays? 

I’m January’s baby, and it’s she who taught me how to love 

Raised me on the final sparks of fireworks floating down into the bay,

Pacific, winter waves that call, come home, come home 

When will be the last night I fall asleep in this house? 

When will my posters come unglued? 

When will nineteen become twenty, and twenty thirty, 

And when will I grow old? 

My hair blowing east towards New York State,

To grand libraries and buildings overgrown 

Another year older, so I’m supposed to know a little better how to give

But my body is my bed, is my town, is the lump in my throat

Not yours, never yours—look for me in places elsewhere  

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