Off the Shelf, Poetry Thursdays
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On the other side there is a home,
With green grass, red rosebushes, and a pool where sharks swim in the deep end.
A dog daydreaming delicious dog-dreams,
While a mother in a vintage chair rubs his belly with her slipper.
Linked Legos litter the carpet to form castles and craters.
There are tiny tantrums and loud loves,
And even bigger promises.
And the ghosts come out at night,
But they can never find a way in
As the flashlight burns beneath the blanket tent.
Here is an apartment,
With an empty dog-bed behind an empty vintage chair.
And a dried-up bath with distant clatter of shark fins circling down the drain.
The hardwood floor linked like Legos,
Polished clean of spilled mistakes.
All the while, the ghosts walk without fear of light.
But they used to though,
They used to though.

On the other side there is a television,
Flashing Rocket Power, Super Mario, and sci-fi movies for sleepy Sunday mornings.
Laughter sings through the homemade forts.
There are blanket soaked couches where brothers swim.
And a piece of popcorn burrows between corduroy couch cushions.
Here is a flat screen,
Except for the reflection of an empty couch.
Where silence sinks into the folds of leather,
And a little brother stops waiting after school.
But he used to though,
He used to though.

On the other side there is a dinner table,
A dad, silently sipping soba soup and tofu,
A son with a ketchup-coated plate under a pile of vegetables awaiting a hungry garbage bin,
A brother leaving behind mouthfuls after a day of taking in earfuls.
While a mother is just trying to hold her nest together between oven-mitt wings.
Here is a table,
Where a man finishes vegetables as the garbage bin starves.
The empty chair across the table looks back at him for conversation,
But the echo of earphones engulfs him.
And the birds outside the window feed with haste,
To survive rather than nurture their nest.
But they used to though,
They used to though.

On the other side there is a twin bed,
With small sheets and big dreams.
Where Pokémon run across the blankets,
And a luminous nightlight locks the monsters in the closet,
While Coldplay sings lullabies goodnight.
Under the pillow is a quarter earned from a tooth lost at a bounce house.
Here is a king bed,
With small sleep and big empty sheets.
Vodka kisses to sleep,
And skeletons of monsters fill the closet.
Under the pillow is an earring lost from a woman met at a house party.
And as it tries alone,
The bed can never really be made.
But it used to though,
It used to though.

On the other side there is a neighborhood,
Where neighbors play in imaginary worlds drawn on the asphalt.
With a basketball hoop for little men to dunk on,
A summer for super soakers and slip-n-slides.
And a “strangers beware” sign on every corner.
Here is a street,
Where Uber drivers wait on real lines drawn on the asphalt.
With empty cellphone screens for the big men to live on.
And strangers sliding shoulders on every corner,
Without ever looking up to find the star-speckled sky of shining eyes.
But they used to though,
They used to though.

On the other side there was a heartbeat home,
Complete with all the memories I cannot live in anymore.
But I used to though,
I used to though.

Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students and physicians. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.


Mitchell Foster Mitchell Foster (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Mitchell Foster is a second-year medical student at the University of California, San Diego Class of 2022. In 2016, he graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Science in pharmacology. He enjoys traveling, sports, and playing with dogs in his free time. After graduating medical school, Mitchell would like to pursue a career in emergency medicine, sports medicine, or surgery.