Neutral Colors


for Charles

Once I had a dream we were all wandering
through the dark on a pier, and there was a lone carousel,
all orange and yellow, and our faces glowed like silver,
rippling with darkness as each animal passed.
This is what comes to my mind first, and then
there are the real things: the yelling, the laughter,
the kitchen table, and then there is you:
Old friend. Lost soldier. First love.
It would be days before I’d find out that
the army had taken you—somewhere deep
in the dark where you could not see, could not feel,
could feel nothing but this. So even when
you were given leave, you could not
look beyond it. For days you felt this pain, and yet
you did not tell her. She was my best friend.
She drove the news into me like a knife at midnight:
you were nothing but moon and tide and sawdust,
gleaming like an urn. You were the love I would never have.
It has been a year, and still nights like this—the rain
and the wind and the fear—remind me of you.
I look out the window, and I search—no, I need—for color,
and there, I find this: a broken carousel, glowing at dusk, and
I settle for the softer colors. I find myself searching for
a lost horse, the gray and the white,
the shade of a tombstone that reads June 30, 1986.
I find myself wiping away the dust, breaking,
listening for the sound of lost hooves.


About mckenzielynntozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives and writes in South Bend, Indiana, where she works as the Departmental Secretary of English and World Language Studies at Indiana University South Bend, and remains closely affiliated with 42 Miles Press, New Issues Poetry and Prose, and Wolfson Press. She previously received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University, where she worked as the Layout and Design Editor for New Issues Poetry and Prose and as an Assistant Editor of Poetry for Third Coast. Her poems have appeared in Encore Magazine, Sleet Magazine, Rogue Agent, Thank You for Swallowing, Whale Road Review, The James Franco Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Analecta; and her book reviews have appeared on her website and on The Rumpus. She lives with her husband, their daughter, and three cats. For more, visit View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

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