Calling Long Distance

I admit that I have given up
trying to calculate the difference:
a day ahead, six hours behind,
spring forward, fall back.

Here even the constellations
are unorthodox, though same as ever
I only know the one by name—
I’ve merely traded in the bear remembered
from Calamine-scented camping trips
and visits to the planetarium
for a symbol on a much-contested flag.
The Dipper for the Southern Cross—
it isn’t poetry, but it has a certain cadence
that strikes me as significant.

Though perhaps I’m searching again
for meaning in empty things,
in words that hold no other words
within them—hollow dolls
mistaken for Matryoshka.
Like interrogating Hemingway
for theme, expecting metaphors
nesting inside of all that brash
and forthright masculinity.
Only more so; even the straightest
of sentences at least is trying
to tell a story. Stars are not
letters, or symbols, or Russian dolls—
just distant glints of alien daylight,
bullet holes in a long-suffering sky.

(The sky itself, I ought to mention,
is different too: the ozone scraped away
like flour from a counter top,
and even in winter—July, not January—
I burn as soon as I hit sunshine.)

So I’m sorry if I woke you, but no,
I don’t have any idea what time it is
in California, because the world here
describes itself in idioms I’ve never heard
and an alphabet I’ve yet to learn to read.

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