Sometimes You Get the Bear

A. Martine

I’d sit on the edge of somnolence and watch Opportunity 

come to me fast, fast, but I’d be ready.

First on the train gets the ride,

that how it goes? 

I’d ruffle sleep’s heavy powder from my shoulders;

was never much of a sleeper;

would wait on Expectation the way

countertops welcome the drip-drip of an overflowing glass 

held by jittery hands: 

inevitable, but not that dramatic after all. 


I’m not sure if you know,

I used to thumb my nose at Disappointment,

wasn’t for me,

never felt that.

Shrouded inner child, when did you stop shadowing me? 

Where did the hour go? 


The things we used to believe in are plenty and strange, namely that:

if we slept sideways on a deck, a single ant could crawl into an ear and undo our thoughts; 

licking dirty envelopes with slit tongues could seed a small family of roaches in our mouths;

swallowed seeds would burst and scale up, abdomen through chest, and grow from our heads;

swimming past the sunline from the shore, we’d grow scales and at last meet the vampire squid; 

if matches were lit after sundown, we could summon the devil and gamble with his cronies;

a needle touched at twilight could bring a person, any person, back to life.

Now: you still howl in my chest, little girl, and I am tone deaf, I am tone deaf. 


I’m not sure if you know. 


I’m selling you something utterly fabricated,

utterly false,


pinpricked here and there

and made flawless to satisfy the appearances I roam through; 

but grifter, grifter, your words, my grain of salt. 


And we always wanted something we could call our own, 

adulthood, trite and glorified,

delivered onto our puny feet —

who knew it would involve so much of being wary, 

so much of being worried all the time? 


I don’t want to be a promise,

a being made of potentials

and splendor yet to come.

I want to be whole, nine years old, like you: 

I just want to be. 


And I want that wholeness to claim me, 

to take me under, to pare away at me 

until I am red open and alive and

full of flaws again. 

Perfection is overrated, 

I see this now. 


Finish something, any one thing, every day.

You can’t want everything,

no, you can’t want everything.

Stop being a sourpuss, faultfinder; 

you are better than that,

better than that, which I am not sure you know. 


A. Martine (she/her) is a trilingual writer, musician and artist who goes where the waves take her. She might have been a kraken in a past life. She's an Assistant Editor at Reckoning Press and a Managing Editor of The Nasiona. Her collection of poems, "AT SEA" was shortlisted for the 2019 Kingdoms in the Wild Poetry Prize. Some of her fiction, nonfiction and poetry can be found or is forthcoming in: Berfrois, The Rumpus, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Metaphorosis, South Broadway Ghost Society, RIC Journal, Lamplight, the Score! anthology, TERSE. Journal, Gone Lawn, Truancy Mag, Crack the Spine, Confessionalist Zine, Ghost City Review. Follow her @Maelllstrom /