Howard Kogan

How We Met

It was a place like Coney Island,
a carnival or a fairground, a real experience
like a dream or a memory of something
that never happened, an incident
I made up because sometimes lies
are the only way of telling the truth.

It was a public place full of private people,
today the kids would call them zombies
because un-dead is as alive as they got, then
we called them zombies because we all went
to the same movies about Haiti and voodoo
after we grew bored with Edgar Cayce.

Maybe we were frightened of the atom bomb
or ourselves and it was easier to blame zombies.
Or maybe we couldn’t tell who was dead
and who was undead. Maybe the people we killed
at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Auschwitz, and Babi Yar
were making war on our peace of mind.

Life was a movie set full of extras acting
like adults looking for something they’d never find
because that’s their job; searching for lost keys,
bargains at the Dollar Store, the meaning of life,
the best deal on the latest treadmill.

We were two children at the periphery
zombies in training, young enough to wonder
but old enough to lie. We were castaways
or runaways who understood cause and effect
when arrows flew and sparrows fell, but
it wasn’t arrows that flew but B-52’s.
Without credit cards we were defenseless.

We wandered at the edge of the crowd
until we noticed each other, shyly circled
catching and avoiding each other’s eyes
until you half smiled an uncertain invitation
and we said ourselves to each other
and began our life on a Ferris wheel.
Being unhappy together was our happiness.