You could have a big dipper   

In Every Universe, You by Jen Gupta




Do you believe

in parallel universes?

Do you believe in one

in which you are not the one,

in which we are not one,

in which he is the one

at the end of the aisle

like he promised he’d be?


One in which he didn’t call,

didn’t tell me not to come after

my bags were packed,

tickets purchased, life

a polite mirror waiting

for his reflection?


Do you think

in that universe I’d be

happy? That I would have

built the picket fence

on my own? That every time

someone asked for my name,

I’d give them his?

That I would have done it—

let my hair strangle itself,

tattoo my legs with thorns

so he would call me

pretty?


Do you know

that I don’t believe

in parallel universes,


don’t believe

there is a me that exists

without you,


don’t believe he

was the centerpiece,

don’t believe he

was anything but

an indulgent rehearsal?


Or maybe I do.

Maybe I believe

there is one universe

in which you never

build a home on this

side of the earth, so


instead

my mother births me

on foreign soil

and my tongue

is a vast machine,

one that speaks

to your mother with ease

and I steal your first

kiss not just the last

and you pass

me notes in school

and vow to hold

my books.


Or maybe in one

you decide to make it work

with that girl and you settle

into something

silent and obedient

but I still find you

in that sticky bar,

and wake

the itchy bones

of your fingers,

let you touch me

that night, and feel

every solid

future beneath

my skin.


Maybe in one,

I am dreadlocked

and tattooed and trapped

in his bed until

you come, a stranger,

to deliver a pizza or fix

the faucet or rob

the place,

to remind me

who I am.


Maybe every one

of these universes

is just slightly

different—

the curtains are blue,

and you burn

the parathas, and we can

afford the grapes.


Maybe I am wearing

a red dress

with a hoop in my nose,

maybe we don’t dance

to Strawberries,

maybe I forget

the flowers and carry

babies, maybe

even he is a guest.


Certainly,

in everyone of them, you


are standing at the end

of the rock rimmed aisle

knowing me,

every me from

every universe that ever was

holding a ring—no,

holding a twig—no,

holding my hand



Jen Gupta is a middle school English teacher, writer, avid hiker, and horse lover. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with her husband and their houseplants.

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