Excerpts from John Colasacco’s poetry manuscript, Two Teenagers, a finalist for the 2015 TS Book Prize.
Two teenagers finish the last apple in the house and then wait for something to say.
“I’m thirsty now,” one says.
The other unseals a new milk carton from the fridge.
They both drink from it, holding each other, turning their heads to face the flash.
They have a certain way of standing–like the feeling of having a toy but never playing with it.
Two teenagers run away together to a place where all the lonely are slaughtered.
When they get there, they find a table and a tree.
They leave a piece of bread on the counter in a bit of shadow, thinking that it expresses something they can’t articulate.
Soon an argument starts over whether the table has been brought outside or the tree is growing indoors.
On the table, an empty wine glass trembles.
Two teenagers disappear into a parking lot looking over their shoulders as though they are afraid someone has seen them.
Next to the parking lot is a three-story house with a faint grinding noise coming from inside.
A warm breeze blows as a woman with an accent whispers something to the whole world, first into one ear, then the other.
The wind dies down just long enough to make out what she’s saying.
“I used to live in that house.”
Two teenagers accidentally separate from each other somewhere in the parking lot.
Then night falls, and the parking lot empties, leaving only seagull feathers and broken glass.
By the light of the moon they track each other’s footprints the wrong direction until they are too tired to walk anymore.
“I’ll just wait here by this seagull feather,” one says.
Miles away the other rubs half a lightbulb until it glows.
That night two teenagers meet two other teenagers who seem at a glance very similar to them.
The first two offer rubber handshakes and common greetings with tightened throats.
This is the moment when you either become comfortable with someone or never feel at ease with them again.
The four of them gather around a computer where only three of the keys are worn smooth.
It looks as though its owner has been typing the word “sea” over and over.
Four teenagers are putting makeup on each other. They dab it on with brushes. One of them begins to trace a line around another’s chin.
The line keeps going until it’s crossed over all of their faces.
It’s so real that you could pull on it.
One of the four slips off into the dark, and for a second it feels as though this is all being recorded.
Then the moon appears, like forgotten exes, and the scent of dogs.
Three teenagers dance around a heart wearing nothing but the dust and bits of grass stuck to their legs.
At the end of the dance new shadows form on the moonlit ground in the shape of chairs.
This place of theirs used to be a street filled with cars, once.
Now they sit in silence, waiting for the one with the knife to pass it around.
None of them seem to notice that that one’s mouth is stained with a white liquid.
Two teenagers listen to the third one tell a story.
When it’s over they laugh a little, looking around at the emptiness.
“I’ll be right back,” the third one says, walking off.
A crumpled bit of paper falls to earth.
I might come back; I might not, the third one thinks.
Two teenagers put their clothes back on and start walking through the middle of the night.
After quite a bit of walking they come upon a single shoe left there by itself in a patch of sand.
It’s the first object they’ve seen for miles, but neither one says anything about it, preferring to concentrate on covering more ground.
Later on, the image of the shoe still persists in their minds.
It’s become the one thought they wish they could stop thinking, but they’re constantly reminded of it by the sound of their own footsteps.
Two teenagers enter a town. They pass through someone’s garden and into a house. The world seems clearer to them now that they’re indoors.
Without taking any measurements they start rearranging the furniture in the living room, and somehow the television gets lost.
They forget about it and finish putting the rest of the furniture into place.
Before long they can’t even remember what the room looked like when they first saw it.
The fireplace crackles over the sound of static coming from upstairs.
Two teenagers find a bottle of wine and are looking for a way to open it when the lights go out.
“It’s the circuit breaker,” one says, feeling along the wall for the door that leads to the basement.
The other one waits alone in the dark with one hand on the bottle.
Letting go of it would allow something terrible to happen.
This is what it feels like to be almost someone else.
Two teenagers are still finishing the conversation from earlier in one of the house’s many empty bedrooms.
When it’s over the man they were talking with exits, leaving the door open just a crack.
Without his presence to keep them company the room now feels unbearably big to them.
They look around for anything nearby that might help fill it up.
Over on the nightstand, a glass of water slowly evaporates.
Two teenagers listen to the voice coming from the other side of the door and move closer to each other on the bed.
They recognize the tune of the song being sung even though the singer has changed most of the words.
Just as sleep overtakes them they see an image of a maid out in the hall, sweeping the dust from the floor with gentle, steady strokes.
As she comes closer, they realize she fell asleep hours ago.
Her mind is at rest, but her body keeps on sweeping, even after the floors are clean.
Two teenagers lie down in the middle of the floor and absorb all the dust that’s collected there.
Occasionally a light draft from the basement door will blow over them, bringing with it the smell of paint thinner.
When their hands touch in the space between them, one of them says, “Please.”
Please what? the other one thinks.
But the softness of the “Please” has already spread out everywhere, like snow.
Two teenagers catch a glimpse of someone passing by at the other end of a long hallway.
The air in the room has gotten colder, so they bundle themselves in warm winter clothes that once belonged to someone’s parents.
From outside people are looking in and seeing how clean the house is–even wishing that they could live here.
It’s as though any lapse in concentration might ruin it, and they need to do everything possible, in these last few moments, to be fully present.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Colasacco is the author of Antigolf (Civil Coping Mechanisms) and The Information Crusher (Spuyten Duyvil). He is a recent winner of The Iowa Review Award in Poetry and Opium Magazine‘s Shya Scanlon Seven-Line Story Contest. Other work has appeared in Gigantic, theNewerYork, Black Clock, Rattle, and elsewhere. Anyone interested in written/artistic collaboration can email at email@example.com.
Two Teenagers is a book-length poem that follows a pair of runaways through a series of real and imagined landscapes. For more excerpts see:
portions of this excerpt appeared or will appear in Hobart and The Scrambler