I spend my childhood in a planetarium
where the seats are empty and the stars look fake.
And they are, I guess, just blotches of light
tossed about like confetti, except there is nothing
to celebrate, no trumpet blasts or parades
of seventy-five foot tall balloon animals
ready to swallow the city. I might be a decent kid
who imagines things that were never there.
Outside, the stars don’t look any more real,
just grains of radiance scattered like pigeon feed.
It can’t be seen. It holds us together.
In my parents’ house, the lamp in my room
is the sun. I fly spaceships around it,
crash them into the dark terrain of the floor.
This new planet could use some animals, so I hold
my hands to the light and speak to their shapes
on the wall. This one is a dog. This one, a bird.
This one is an elephant that looks like my father—
an engineer with a math book under his arm—
whose great shadow fills the room.
Matthew Olzmann was born in Detroit, Michigan. He received a BA from the University of Michigan–Dearborn and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. He is the author of Contradictions in the Design (Alice James Books, 2016) and Mezzanines (Alice James Books, 2013), winner of the 2011 Kundiman Poetry Prize. Olzmann has received fellowships from the Kresge Arts Foundation and Kundiman, among others. He teaches at Warren Wilson College and lives in North Carolina with his wife, the poet Vievee Francis.
Cover image by Octavian Rosca