Game Length (Part Three)

Devon Branca


an odd little story: once the mountain fell down
(my eyes are running long distances
[if my eyes had a mouth (not the mouth on my face,
but their own personal mouths), they would be yawning a little]
without actually going anywhere),
the landscape painter knocked over his easel

Game length: when I was twelve, I stole
a red ribbon from my mother’s sewing supplies,
folded it between my hands, and said, Whoever
controls my life, whether you be a god or myself,
I will call you Sava and I will represent you
with this red ribbon. It began to rain.
I prayed to Sava for two years
             before I lost the ribbon.


always heavier
than the heavier Mark seeks
through kisses and
the wounds of kisses

Game length: He fell asleep to the sound of traffic.
He couldn’t remember any of his dreams.
When his alarm went off, he thought the house was on fire.
When it wasn’t, he wished it was and that his hands
were buckets of water.


I heard a rumor of a lunar eclipse
and ran outside to see it.
The sky was pitch black and beautiful. The moon

was behind a building. I didn’t care.

Game length: Susan goes out for coffee
because she wants non-Susan coffee,
non-Susan tables, and non-Susan men,
like the barista who works here, the one
with the nice chest and hair long enough to hold.


The dresser drawer holds photographs
of all the sunsets and autumns
the amateur photographer wanted to show her husband.

Game length: no matter what the cameras advertise,
and they advertise everything, she can’t bring you the view. She can only tell you
she missed you, once, a place somewhere like this.


Now Jay calls himself Joseph, but I call him Jay
when he calls on the phone from the abortion clinic
waiting; he asks me not to tell anyone. He was planning on
breaking up with her yesterday, but then she told him. Now
he has to wait. He called to ask me how long I think he needs to give her.

Game length: He says maybe he’ll focus on his job. Really
work on the new program he’s coding. He looks like pictures of my dad
when my dad was young. Jay’s math professor once said, “Someday
you’ll have to choose between math and your music if you’re serious
about math.” His professor used to play trumpet too. Jay’s the one
who got me into jazz. The one who taught me set theory.
The one who’s the closest thing I have to a brother.


Mera wanted to hold everyone in her arms at once,
protect them, not the specifics of the man shattered in red
or the woman eating a peach, but all of them.

Game length: a young girl asks her mother, Is that
a rainbow? No, her mother says,
That’s a sunset.


The point at which we
can operate on ourselves,
open up our own zippers, put in
windows for viewing
the lungs, bones, biological heart,
will be just like seeing
the first pictures of the earth.

Game length: Hanging off the side of the plane,
the skydiving coach said, We’re going to flip three times.
You’ll know this because you’ll see ground, sky, ground, sky, ground, sky.


You see a caterpillar in the road.
You pick up the caterpillar. You place it in the grass.

Game Length: you walk home thinking, I saved a caterpillar.
You make a crown out of paper—None of this is stupid.

Revised game length: You and I want to believe this.
We talk about it for hours. We even say
we think it’s stupid just so we can
believe in it more.


Tyler is on his way to Harry, dragging a few thousand suns,
playing the same three songs, swerving to stay awake,
soon there will be nothing to lose besides Harry.

Then the war with Tyler’s feet and hands, hills to climb,
carrying flags made from Harry’s shirt,
his cigarette lighter caught in long exposure.

He drags this skeleton to him, sees him in every animal
on the side of the road, in an apron of arms,
the body of the deer, a name written on the map.

Game length: the vagabond keeps his cat, a photo,
and a basil plant in his coat. He jumps in the air,
the world spins beneath him.


Jessica asks Brian, If you had to, how would you kill yourself?
He says it depends, like a favorite sex position,
it depends on his mood.

Game length: as opposed to asking if she loves you,
ask if she’d be willing to move to Tennessee.


Sometimes, when I can’t fall asleep,
I like to watch the car lights from the street play off my ceiling,
and sometimes I think how amazing it would be
to fall asleep in a church full of stained glass windows.

Game length: I’m afraid of missing so much.
To be this room, full of rows of light,
to see the table as light, the chairs as light,
you and I as only light. I’m afraid of missing so much.


You say to yourself and to anyone listening:
I’d rather help the little person inside me
who wears me like blankets, a dream of clouds,
I’m wearing clouds like clothes, naked but not nude,
I mean I would just like someone
like the cloud that looked like someone
I could be naked inside of and how I ran under it
like I was its anchor, how I dreamed it
until it disappeared on the knife of the horizon
and I held my tongue out, a child in the snow,
but never tasted blood, not at least the way
I wanted to, the way I wanted you to say, Hello,
my love, I see beauty through you, or at the very least,
             say, I need you.

Game length: please.

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