Days Like This

by | May 20, 2015 | Poetry

Mama told me there would be
a great battle called Ragnarok,
that I would be its lone survivor.

She told me the sharp way
I tied my shoelaces
would cause lovely women
to swoon.

She said my above-average IQ
would summons
a robed flock of adoring Magi
to the foot of my bed.

Mama told me cornbread
would turn my muscles into pulleys,
that I could beat that steel-
driving machine
with the sheer force of my charm.

She told me twelve times six
was whatever I wanted it to be,
that I had the kind of power
to transcend silly mathematics.

She said my singing voice
could revive a slaughtered longhorn,
that I need not go to church
for God was already seeking me.

My mama was a talker, and she
said so many things,
but unlike the wise matriarch
of the Shirelles’s song,
she never once informed me
there’d be days like this.

And so imagine my surprise
as I stand here on the banks
of a wild imaginary river
I have invented only for
the sake of metaphor.

Imagine me jumping in,
believing I will swim.

Imagine me not swimming.

Imagine me swept downstream,
deeply panicked, eyes like a pair
of electrocuted olives—
or else some better image
if you can think of one.

What I’m saying is, imagine
my deep, unholy surprise at learning
that despite what Mama said
I cannot in fact breathe
under water.

Imagine my shock at finding out
that days like this do indeed exist.



Photo: breathing underwater by seanmundy

About The Author

Justin Hamm

Justin Hamm is the author of a full-length collection of poems, Lessons in Ruin, and two poetry chapbooks. His work has appeared in Nimrod, The Midwest Quarterly, Cream City Review, Sugar House Review, and elsewhere. Recent work also been selected for New Poetry From the Midwest and The Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Award from the St. Louis Poetry Center.