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 Indiana, where she works as a virtual assistant, editor, and freelance writer via her self-started business, MLT Creative. She 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 Poetry Editor for Third Coast. She previously completed her B.S. in Secondary English Education and B.A. in English, with a Concentration in Writing, at Indiana University South Bend, where she worked as the Managing Editor for 42 Miles Press. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Encore Magazine, Thank You for Swallowing, The Spooklet, Sleet Magazine, and Analecta, among others; and her book reviews and essays have appeared on The Rumpus and Motherly. When not writing, she enjoys art and music, and the simple mathematics of being a wife of one, a mama of two, and a cat-mom of three. For more, visit View all posts by mckenzielynntozan

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