Devin Kelly

Conditionally

Sometimes I remember summer in California,

just 12, army father, & the way he left me

alone at the hotel, & how, taken to nothing

but wanting love, I wandered the beach,

not knowing what to do with an ocean.

I wore socks with my sneakers & sat,

thinking myself older, clutching a book

I didn’t read, wanting to read, but not,

& then looking up, & wanting to read again.

A lot has changed since then, & nothing.

I don’t wear socks. I know what it’s like

to be high. Sometimes I have wanted

to know if there is an underside to life,

& if it is inverted, so that there, we live

inside of light rather than below it.

I have found it better to believe in everything

than nothing — like the old man each day

on the beach, scavenging with the metal

extension of his arm for gold or bits of

valuable scrap. Each day I thought him

doing something else: sometimes searching

or forgiving or even blessing, sometimes

longing for something more than this, & yet

something still, head turned toward this soft

ground that offered nothing but would or maybe.

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Devin Kelly is the author of In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (Civil Coping Mechanisms). His work has appeared in Longreads, The Guardian, LitHub, DIAGRAM, Hobart, Redivider, and more. He lives and teaches high school in New York City.

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