Elegy for Half Measures

I’m not about to say it’s anything
other than a coincidence, the fact
that somebody in my group over two
hundred miles from Bellingham
knows of Jeff Mixdorf, knows of the regatta
named after him, and I’m certainly

not about to listen to a counselor
when she says, Look, it’s been twelve years,
it’s time for you to get over it.
I spend the rest of the day pissed off,
skipping mandatory gym, tempted
to hitchhike into town and find

a liquor store. The only spiritual
experience I’ve had since I arrived
is imagining the different ways
I’d murder my roommate. He won’t shut
his mouth, singing songs made up
on the spot about his favorite food (pussy),

and old Sandusky’s lust for little
boys. In the cafeteria drinking tea
with a chaplain, I admit I don’t believe in God.
He smiles, his palms lightly touching
his styrofoam cup. It isn’t because
I don’t want to, I add. I’ll tell you a secret,

he whispers, leaning forward over
the table. Any man who says he knows
God, like I know this tea will burn
the shit out me if I pour it in my lap,
is either lying or naive. An hour
after lights-out, after a supervisor goes

room to room knocking gently, peeking
in like a parent to see we’re not up
smoking on the patio, windows begin
to tap with rain. I lie wide-awake, the counselor’s
voice droning in my head as I try
to accept what I am, why I keep dreaming

of Jeff in a Fairhaven bar talking
about a girl he broke up with, foam
running down our glasses. I’ve decided
my group only needs to know that
he killed himself. Anything about me loving him
and they’d all gang up. What about

your wife? Why’d you bother getting
married? They’d laugh, ask me if I’ve been
checking them out, who I’d rather fuck
in the ass. I open the patio door for
some cold air, watching rain drip off the roof.
I’m scared the cravings won’t stop,

scared they will. Maybe I’ve always
known what really led me night after night
into the street outside my apartment,
sprawling me on the blacktop. Maybe one day I can
be perfectly fine with giving it over
to somebody’s God, like a last hidden stash.


Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis received his MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State, having studied under the poets Kevin Clark, Rick Barot and Greg Glazner. A number of his poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Talking River, Superstition Review, Nashville Review and The Tusculum Review. He has been teaching High School English for the past ten years, and live near Olympia, Washington.