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Analogies For Ted

Melissa Barrett

You found a typo in Corinthians and thought God
made a mistake, that God wasn't real, that God
was Tom Stoppard. I mean you quote yourself
as the signature to your e-mails, and when I first met you,
you said to vote in 2020 ’cause you'd be running.
You’d foam at the mouth at the mentioning
of the Rhodes Scholarships, or when I’d shower
and use your towel. So I’d air dry, so I got
really turned off at your graveyard of used gestures.
But I did like you—I liked you that night outside
the gym when I laughed at everything and you dug
your hands deeper into that Minnesotan toggle jacket, Ted
that night I would have slid my tongue over your teeth.
But telling you was impossible, even with a corkless
bottle of wine spent between us, like an echo that leaps
from a sandcastle tunnel: Nothing. How do you feel
about being the subject of this poem? And how
most of your favorite restaurants are really just
big microwaves? Dear Ted, I'm back in Springfield,
and last week I actually bought one of those candles
that smell like Christmas. Meanwhile you're eyeing
one of your students’ chests on the other side of the world.
Remember when you spent a decade criticizing
my decade learning German? And your interruption
each time I was making a point? But analogy
is the weakest form of argument, you say, you said,
you never stopped saying, even though I saw you
defend analogy at a forum in front of everyone
important—you stood up, you sat alone, you're so
independent, you tease—and praised the comparison
of a skyline to one cracked lentil. Well I want to
compare a nest of wet shoelaces to your recitation
of Chris Rock stand-up. Or the sincerity of your smile
to a bedspread hyacinth. Or our entire relationship
to the guy in the backseat who reads every road sign
aloud in a slow, sarcastic voice. Ted, I would have
written a mass e-mail about you getting cancer, too.
I would have given up giving up meat, just so
we could go to the drive-thru together. (We did, once
—I was appalled.) But you made my sisters laugh
and you paid for our airport parking and you look pretty good
in a navy blue toggle jacket. You also taught me
to listen, because your voicemails are unending, because
I've been socialized to talk only when no one else is—
Dear Ted, I'm twenty-five and my ears are tired,
my spacebar is tired, do you remember that morning
I drove by and saw you lumped against my front lawn,
arms thrown up in abandon? You were tired. You
were waiting for me, much like these lines— Three years
I've wanted to say: Dear Ted, that morning you were crying
over Katrina and Aubree and probably later, Saori:
dewy-eyed and grass-stained but never totally unraveled,
because there’s always some piece of you kept back,
a distance no one has measured, and that’s the real reason
I saw you that morning and still drove by:
because I think I know what you thought you were feeling.

Melissa Barrett

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