Jason Irwin

Everything that Bought us Here

Sometimes we’re misplaced commas in each other’s lives.
Transient as the moth that greets us when we wake
in the middle of the night in search of a cracker
or that half finished beer in the fridge.
Maybe we’re nothing more than a string of moments,
scattered like photographs after a fire, or the collision
of neutrons
caught in a gravitational-wave event.

In another dimension we could be kings, auto mechanics,
or tap dancers.

If a man, let’s call him Andrew, gets off the bus at 12th
and Smithfield and walks three blocks south toward
the library and if Amy leaves a coffee shop and walks
three blocks north and one block west, will they meet?

Yesterday I saw an old man sitting in a doorway crying
and a boy, with wings strapped to his back,
fly above the city’s tallest buildings.

Besieged with grief and regret, nostalgic for places we’ve
never been,
and realizing that our cells are constantly dying,
we cry over the slightest injustices: a letter never sent,
a used teabag in the sink, a family photo album found in
the attic.

My lover traveled 6,500 miles southwest from Indiana to
Japan,
and another 6,600 miles northeast to Pittsburgh. I drove
three miles down Swissvale Avenue to an art gallery
for a poetry reading and pot-luck dinner, and though we
were both
there that night, we would not meet for another year.

One day my mother was in a car accident. At the hospital
X-rays revealed she was pregnant and there was
something wrong.
What would our lives be like without cell phones, birth
defects,
TV dinners, or poetry, falling asleep to rain dripping
through a leaky roof?

A punctuation error, like a detour, can lead us down roads
we never intended to travel. Our lives go by like a car
crash, or supernova;
in moments of ecstasy or anger, watching the sunset as
we wash
dishes, worrying about all the plans we’ll leave undone,
the books we’ll never read.

There’s so much beauty in the world. Why do we spend
our time
acquiring things, dwelling on the past, losing ourselves in
the headlines?
Holed up in his tower Daedalus still mourns Icarus’
extravagant fall.

Look at the two of us sitting at the table drinking wine.
Each moment of our lives has brought us here. Each
moment
could have as easily led us somewhere else.

JASON IRWIN is the author of A Blister of Stars and Watering the Dead , winner of the Transcontin-ental Poetry Award, and the chapbooks Where You Are and & Some Days It’s A Love Story. He has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. He grew up in Dunkirk, NY, and now lives in Pittsburgh.