E is for Exhaustion

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heat wave anthem

by Lilly Milman

“I think the Earth has moved closer to the Sun,

or maybe it’s the other way around.”

I like elevator conversation like this.

“That sounds like a fair observation to make”

about this recent heat wave that has us all

spreading apart and sticking to the floor like freshly cracked eggs.

It was 2018 and New York was burning,

while we all laid flat on our backs

across the aged hardwood,

hair pushed to the side and

away from the neck, palms face down

and eyes closed. We couldn’t stand in the heat.

It feels good to be connected in this way,

hungry for the sound of feet whooshing

past the door and kicking up a breeze that

just makes it through the cracks,

bonded by the thinning out.

It is something I have had to work at —

keeping my eyes shut —

and the only way I have

succeeded is by cheating. I am not ashamed

to admit to my tricks.

I open one eye at a time when it gets too quiet,

when I let the stranger — nuzzling and

hiccuping and rubbing his eyes — fall asleep

on my shoulder on the train,

when the bus didn’t come and we

were all left in the rain, when my

wallet was lost and then unceremoniously found.

Sometimes, I try to reimagine things

I once heard someone say, but in my own voice,

to keep myself from frying.

This is easiest with teachers, old friends, and audiobooks.

This is called a rose window, I hum.

You just have to look through it, and wait for the clouds to pass by.

A poem about my time living/working in New York City during a heat wave this summer, with an emphasis on the collective exhaustion the city seems to feel during the summer.
— Lilly Milman, on inspiration for "heat wave anthem"

LILLY MILMAN is a Russian-American from Long Island, and she is currently a senior Writing, Literature and Publishing student at Emerson College. She is an associate editor of The Deli Magazine and a contributor at EARMILK. Her poetry has been published in Dirty Paws Poetry Review, Ink&Nebula Magazine, Crab Fat Magazine, and The Hungry Chimera.