Aaron Burch: “Life Itself”

Life Itself

Sometimes my life seems like a series of years
where, every year, I feel a year too old to try something new.
Every previous year looked back on, like, “if only…”
Every year, a lot of daydreaming
about a time machine that would just take me back
exactly one year, to a time when I was sitting around,
daydreaming about a time machine that could take me back one year.

I’m not sure at what age the cheap to expensive grade
matured into good to bad. When or why
certain things start to seem worth it.
Sometimes you gotta order your burrito wet.
Sometimes an extra stiff drink gets you drunker,
quicker, for less money. And other times it’s just a shitty drink.
Sometimes you just need to pay the extra dollar for guacamole.

Roger Ebert told a story about his father refusing to teach
his son a single thing about his work. Wouldn’t even let him watch.
Wanted his son to get an education, be one of those professors
he saw at the University, with their feet up on desks, reading.
My father tried to teach me how to work on cars,
the house. How to fish—tying knots, the beauty of a well-placed
cast. He tried to teach me how to put my hands to work,
how to take pride in work well done. And I tried,
but am a poor student, truth be told. A poor son,
I feel sometimes, when wanting to beat myself up.

I been doin’ this since before Nas dropped the Nasty,
Ghostface said. Me and Grandpa Ghost.
It isn’t quite true, but sometimes it feels like it.
I’ve never had a “Jesus piece”
much less one since ’94, though in that year I did receive
a cross necklace, made from railroad nails
at the end of our weeklong Youth Group mission.

Sometimes I look back on those trips.
Some of the best trips, truth be told.
Helped build things, real things,
did the kind of work that people talk about
as real work, or whatever.

I feel like I should say something about my own Grandpa
here. I want to say I wish we’d had a better relationship
or just that I’d known him better. But that seems to imply
we had a bad relationship. I knew him pretty well,
we had a good relationship. Still,
I wish it had been better.
Or stronger. Something.
I wish I was better at lots of things.

Sometimes my parents ask the kinds of questions
I’m not sure how to answer. Sometimes
I wake up early in the morning, see the sun
through the window, and think, who knows,
maybe I am a morning person.

Sometimes my collection of years
seems a pretty good set.


Aaron Burch is as excited to be a “crony” as he is to see this poem published. His debut collection of stories, BACKSWING, will be out next year, though he seems to be publishing poems this last year.

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