“Bygones” by Marina Keegan

Last week, I went to VicSlam and heard some incredibly talented local poets lay down their thoughts and feelings in lines–lines about pipelines, about being fabulous, about love. Since then, I’ve been thinking about a slam poem I want to write that expresses the feeling of being caught between worlds of adulthood and youth and between ambition and contentment, a poem about wanting to live in the moment but worrying that everyone else over there is doing it better.

Turns out it’s already been written.

I had a dream the other night that I was checking my email.
That dream sucks.

And woke to woes of seniors writing
love songs for tomorrow and
Tomorrow and the melodies
That flirt us forward, whispering
the next thing and the next thing
and – so we beat on
birds flocking south until we
circle round and realize maybe
maybe all that running wasn’t worth it.

Maybe we should build a cabin.
Or teach high school.
Or use our hands.
My palms are smooth as words –
Weak with fashion and double spaces.

I want everyone else’s club and job and class
The grass I sleep in always browner than
Than that around erasing dreams
To sit and breathe because you
Only bank for two years then it’s over
And twenty two is nothing new
It’s just another chance to build
For when we’re twenty three
And twenty four
And time begins to sell for more than
Any 9 a.m. to never.

We’re not stuck.
That’s the thing, we’re not stuck.
We owe no one our nothings.

Yale will be what it was,
Gothic dreams of lucky, of amazing
Not a staircase or corner office contract.

At home, I walk in forest fields,
Orange light and dry trees,
Becoming slowly sleepy,
And disgusted with my vintage shoes
And the thinness of my skinny pants,
my florals laughed at by the flowers,
whispering, hip. Whispering, there’s no
sidewalk that cares.

But let me tell you, I look cool at parties
And success sufficient to make men fall in love
As we smoke again and open wines
And text to leave because the here is never
Good and I heard that thing on Chapel was fun, well do you wanna leave soon?
Who’s there
Do you wanna leave soon?

I want to bake my Blackberry into blackberry pancakes
And live wireless,
With a husband who runs in the mornings
And lots of books
And a baby who I raise…
To be anything – or nothing
Because that’s okay too.
Because working in a bookstore and having babies
And nothing and being in love is okay too.

Ambition is a choice.
Ambition is a race we chose to run
So we could get here so we could
I don’t know so we could save poor
People or invent something or be in charge.

Last winter I slept in word counts
Face pressed to table tops until the
Snow came and the sun rose
And a man came in to vacuum the floor.

And I’d be tired.
Not just sleepy, but tired.
Tired until all I wanted to do was put on something
Acoustic and romantic and vacuum castle floors.

Why do I feel like I can’t do that?

I’m not sure anymore if I want
To schedule meals and be late
And delegate because that’s what
Good leaders do.

And I’m tired of justifying with tomorrow’s bliss, because
Yesterday’s tomorrow is today and
Someday the sun is going to die
And then the human race will end and
I’ll still be texting to see if that other party’s better.

Do you wanna leave soon?
No, I want enough time to be in love
with everything.

We’re too smart to sell our time
For cocktail moments of
This is what I’ve done
And summers lost for
Three lines on a document
That can’t contain the time
We got high on pancakes
And built a snow fort.

We’re not that young.
We’ve always been young
But now we’re not that young.

And the world is so beautiful.

And this is what we’ve got, you know?
This is what we’ve got and we’ll just keep flirting forward,
Shrinking fonts and grays in love songs to future companies who may decide they want us on their team.

The middle of the universe is here, is tonight,
And everything behind is a sunk cost
Lost in our oceans and our oceans are deep.

So I went to Yale.
So I got good grades.
So we beat on
birds flocking south until we
circle round and realize maybe
maybe all that running wasn’t worth it.

Or the snow comes, and the sun rises, and the vacuum starts,
And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.

***

 Marina Keegan wrote this poem, “Bygones,” while she was a student at Yale. She died in a car accident five days after her graduation. A book of her writing, The Opposite of Loneliness, was published posthumously this spring.

And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.

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