My second chapbook, a collaboration of poems by me and paintings by my dear friend and graduate school colleague Susan Solomon, has been made available here through Red Bird Press.
It is entitled Catalpa after the tree and the title poem. For the rest, you’ll just have to see for yourself!
It would mean a lot to us if you would support our project by buying our book and/or sharing this link.
Also, please let me and/or Susan know what you think!
Lots of love,
Try to praise the mutilated world. / Remember June’s long days, / and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine. / The nettles that methodically overgrow
O my friend
you need it
because you worked hard
like an honourable man
Before you left
you left your office in order
You switched off the lights
and on stepping out
you looked at the sky
which was almost painfully blue
You gracefully smoothed your moustache
and said to yourself :
think that death is the end
Sleep well my friend
Sleep the sleep of the righteous
even from your dreams
Let us shoulder the burden a little
from THE EARTH OPENS AND WELCOMES YOU by Abdellatif Laâbi
After the Funeral
Apology and Winter Things
Winter Sunrise Outside a Café
The mountain is one speed. The river
is one rush. The hummingbirds’ needles
are one speed. The boulders are one rush.
The nectar in the globe flower is one speed.
The boy throwing the hummingbird mountain
at his father is one speed, the boulder
that crushes his father is one rush, the nectar
that drips on Father’s near dead lips is one speed—
he closes his eyes with one rush.
To the back porch
And slept with our children in a row.
The wind came up the mountain into the orchard
Telling me something;
Saying something urgent.
I was happy.
The green apples fell on the sloping roof
And rattled down.
The wind was shaking me all night long;
Shaking me in my sleep
Like a definition of love,
Saying, this is the moment,
where I am from,
I must be
from the country of janitors,
I have always mopped this floor.
Honduras, you are a squatter’s camp
outside the city
of their understanding.
No one can speak
I host the fiesta
of the bathroom,
stirring the toilet
like a punchbowl.
The Spanish music of my name
when the guests complain
about toilet paper.
What they say
must be true:
I am smart.
but I have a bad attitude.
No one knows
that I quit tonight,
maybe the mop
will push on without me,
sniffing along the floor
like a crazy squid
with stringy gray tentacles.
That summer in the west I walked sunrise
to dusk, narrow twisted highways without shoulders,
low stone walls on both sides. Hedgerows
of fuchsia hemmed me in, the tropical plant
now wild, centuries after nobles imported it
for their gardens. And I was unafraid,
did not cross to the outsides of curves, did not
look behind me for what might be coming.
For weeks in counties Kerry and Cork, I walked
through the red blooms the Irish call
the Tears of God, blazing from the brush
like lanterns. Who would have thought
a warm current touching the shore
of that stone-cold country could make
lemon trees, bananas, and palms not just take,
but thrive? Wild as the jungles they came from,
where boas flexed around their trunks —
like my other close brushes with miracles,
the men who love you back, how they come
to you, gorgeous and invasive, improbable,
hemming you in. And you walk that road
blazing, some days not even afraid to die.
Daniel J. Langton
The world was loose at first.
What gets to stop is time. The door
they talk about is closed, the things
we have to face are not around.
And yet, that’s not what life is for,
you get to find the part with wings
by forming patterns on the ground.
|With Jim Moore at his Invisible Strings reading
the day of my MFA thesis defense, April 15, 2011.
There are two versions of every life.
In the first one, you get a mother, a father,
your very own room,
a dandelion’s-worth of chances.
You learn to walk, which is only done by walking.
You learn the past tense of have, which is hunger.
You learn to ask almost anything
is to ask it to be over,
as when the lover asks the other
“Are you sleeping? Are you beginning
to go away?”
(And whether or not you learn it, life does not penetrate
more than five miles above the earth
or reach more than three miles beneath the sea.
Life is eight miles long.
You could walk it, and be there before sundown.
Or swim it, or fall it, or crawl it.)
The second is told from the point
of view of the sky.
by Anna Akhmatova, translated from the Russian by Jane Kenyon
Though this land is not my own
I will never forget it,
or the waters of its ocean,
fresh and delicately icy.
Sand on the bottom is whiter than chalk,
and the air drunk, like wine.
Late sun lays bare
the rosy limbs of the pine trees.
And the sun goes down in waves of ether
in such a way that I can’t tell
if the day is ending, or the world,
or if the secret of secrets is within me again.
|West Africa, 2004|
When I woke up I was in a forest. The dark
seemed natural, the sky through the pine trees
thick with many lights.
I knew nothing; I could do nothing but see.
And as I watched, all the lights of heaven
faded to make a single thing, a fire
burning through the cool firs.
Then it wasn’t possible any longer
to stare at heaven and not be destroyed.
Are there souls that need
death’s presence, as I require protection?
I think if I speak long enough
I will answer that question, I will see
whatever they see, a ladder
reaching through the firs, whatever
calls them to exchange their lives–
Think what I understand already.
I wake up ignorant in a forest;
only a moment ago, I didn’t know my voice
if one were given me
would be so full of grief, my sentences
like cries strung together.
I didn’t even know I felt grief
until that word came, until I felt
rain streaming from me.
Not I, you idiot, not self, but we, we–waves
of sky blue like
a critique of heaven: why
do you treasure your voice
when to be one thing
is to be next to nothing?
Why do you look up? To hear
an echo like the voice
of god? You are all the same to us,
solitary, standing above us, planning
your silly lives: you go
where you are sent, like all things,
where the wind plants you,
one or another of you forever
looking down and seeing some image
of water, and hearing what? Waves,
and over waves, birds singing.
I couldn’t do it again,
I can hardly bear to look at it–
in the garden, in the light rain
the young couple planting
a row of peas, as though
no one has ever done this before,
the great difficulties have never as yet
been faced and solved–
They cannot see themselves,
in fresh dirt, starting up
the hills behind them pale green, clouded with flowers–
She wants to stop;
he wants to get to the end,
to stay with the thing–
Look at her, touching his cheek
to make a truce, her fingers
cool with spring rain;
in thin grass, bursts of purple crocus–
even here, even at the beginning of love,
her hand leaving his face makes
an image of departure
and they think
they are free to overlook
You think everyone knows
all about a thing so you don’t
write it down, don’t say.
Everybody does know
about it. It is difficult.
In the backs of our minds,
while several separate
groups of humans try
to entertain one another,
to be novel or bright,
a similar thought spider crouches.
Consider: the artist who was famously ironic
about being ironic. By each show’s end,
the whole audience felt stupid. We loved it!
But some of the crowd was only pretending,
you find out much later. It’s no wonder,
when even the family cat’s on
Prozac, we’re tired of emotion in art.
That antique sadness is the new
inside joke. It’s irrevocable, like when driving home
one night, the stranger who pulls up to the red light
next to you is weeping, both your windows
rolled up. You just begin to have a human reaction,
and then the light’s green.
by Joseph Stroud
I want to tell you the story of that winter
in Madrid where I lived in a room
with no windows, where I lived
with the death of my father, carrying it
everywhere through the streets,
as if it were an object, a book written
in a luminous language I could not read.
Every day I left my room and wandered
across the great plazas of that city,
boulevards crowded with people and cars.
There was nowhere I wanted to go.
Sometimes I would come to myself
inside a cathedral under the vaulted
ceiling of the transept, I would find
myself sobbing, transfixed in the light
slanting through the rose window
scattering jewels across the cold
marble floor. At this distance now
the grief is not important, nor the sadness
I felt day after day wandering the maze
of medieval streets, wandering the rooms
of the Prado, going from painting
to painting, looking into Velazquez,
into Bosch, Brueghel, looking for something
that would help, that would frame
my spirit, focus sorrow into some
kind of belief that wasn’t fantasy
or false, for I was tired of deception,
the lies of words, even the Gyspy violin,
its lament with the punal inside
seemed indulgent, posturing.
I don’t mean to say these didn’t
move me, I was an easy mark,
anything could well up in me–
rainshine on the cobblestone streets,
a bowl of tripe soup in a peasant cafe.
In my world at that time there was
no scale, nothing with which
to measure, I could no longer
discern value–the mongrel eating
scraps of garbage in the alley
was equal to Guernica in all its
massive outrage. When I looked
in the paintings mostly what I saw
were questions. In the paradise
panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights
why does Bosch show a lion
disemboweling a deer? Or that man
in hell crucified on the strings of a harp?
In his Allegory of the Seven Deadly Sins:
Gluttony, Lust, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Avarice,
Pride–of which am I most guilty?
Why in Juan de Flanders’ Resurrection
of Lazarus is the face of Christ so sad
in bringing the body back to life?
Every day I returned to my room,
to my cave where I could not look out
at the world, where I was forced into
the one place I did not want to be. In
the Cranach painting–behind Venus
with her fantastic hat, her cryptic look,
behind Cupid holding a honeycomb, whimpering
with bee stings–far off in the background,
that cliff rising above the sea, that small hut
on top–is that Cold Mountain, is that where
the poet made his way out of our world?
My father had little use for poems, less use
for the future. If he had anything
to show me by his life, it was to live
here. Even in a room without windows.
One day in the Prado, in the Hall
of the Muses, a group of men
in expensive suits, severe looking,
men of importance, with a purpose,
moved down the hallway toward me,
and I was swept aside, politely,
firmly. As they passed I glimpsed
in their midst a woman, in a simple
black dress with pearls, serene, speaking
to no one, and then she and the men
were gone. Who was that? I asked,
and a guard answered: The Queen.
The Queen. In my attempt to follow
to see which painting she would choose,
I got lost in one of the Goya rooms
and found myself before one of his
dark paintings, one from his last years
when the world held no more illusions,
where love was examined in a ruthless,
savage anger. In this painting
a woman stood next to Death, her beauty,
her elegance, her pearls and shining hair
meant nothing in His presence,
and He was looking out from the painting,
looking into me, and Death took my hand
and made me look, and I saw my own face
streaming with tears, and the day
took on the shape of a crouching beast,
and my father’s voice called out in wonder
or warning, and every moment
I held on made it that much harder
to let go, and Death demanded
that I let go. Then the moment
disappeared, like a pale horse, like
a ghost horse disappearing deep inside
Goya’s painting. I left the Prado.
I walked by the Palacio Real with its
2,000 rooms, one for every kind
of desire. I came upon the Rastro,
the great open-air bazaar, a flea market
for the planet, where everything in the world
that has been cast aside, rejected, lost,
might be found, where I found Cervantes,
an old, dusty copy of Don Quixote,
and where I discovered an old mirror,
and looking into it found my father’s face
in my face looking back at me,
and behind us a Brueghel world
crowded with the clamor of the market,
people busy with their lives, hunting,
searching for what’s missing. How casual
they seemed, in no hurry, as if they had all
of time, no frenzy, no worry,
as the Castilian sun made its slow
arch over us, the same sun
that lanced the fish on crushed ice
in the market stalls, fish with open mouths,
glazed stares, lapped against each other
like scales, by the dozens, the madrilenos
gaping over them, reading them
like some sacred text, like some kind
of psalm or prophecy as they made
their choice, and had it wrapped in paper,
then disappeared into the crowd.
And that is all. I wanted to tell you
the story of that winter in Madrid
where I lived in a room with no windows
at the beginning of my life without my father.
When the fascist officials asked Picasso
about Guernica: “Are you responsible
for this painting?” he looked back
at them, and answered slowly: “No.
You are.” What should I answer
when asked about this poem?
I wanted to tell you the story of that winter
in Madrid, where my father kept dying, again
and again, inside of me, and I kept
bringing him back, holding him for as long
as I could. I never knew how much
I loved him. I didn’t know that grief
would give him back to me, over
and over, I didn’t know that those
cobbled streets would someday
lead to here, to this quietude,
this blessing, to my father
The Sadness of the Lingua Franca
In Bird, I speak brokenly. Hiss and flail and never learn.
And the swan will never mouth
the noun for bread,
the declensions of crumb. Though i could stop
its migration with a crumb.
After English, we never do get to be strangers again.
The language is famous and followed,
it has no loneliness left.
It has made it to the moon. It has got god
to speak it. It will get
to everything first, if it can.
But not the swan, pale as a page
I will never have written.
I Was Always Leaving
I was always leaving, I was
about to get up and go, I was
on my way, not sure where.
Somewhere else. Not here.
Nothing here was good enough.
It would be better there, where I
was going. Not sure how or why.
The dome I cowered under
would be raised, and I would be released
into my true life. I would meet there
the ones I was destined to meet.
They would make an opening for me
among the flutes and boulders,
and I would be taken up. That this
might be a form of death
did not occur to me. I only know
that something held me back,
a doubt, a debt, a face I could not
leave behind. When the door
fell open, I did not go through.
Stars rising like something said, something never
To be forgotten, shining forever–look
How still they are.
Blind hunter crawling
Toward sunrise, then healed.
He opened his eyes to find her waiting
–Afraid–and together they traveled
Lightly: requiring nothing
But a sense that the road beneath them stretched
Forever. At the edge
He entered the water, swam so far
That he became a speck: his body
Washed ashore, then raised to where we see it now–
The belt, the worn-out sword. I’m not
Except that there is nothing beneath us,
No ground without fear. The body vulnerable
–You can look at me–
The body still now, never
Changing, rising forever–stay–
Like something said.
I forgave my blood its mistake;
I must have forgiven all of it.
nor did I,
amid all the new
and old things.
I’m only leaving you
for a handful of days,
but it feels as though
I’ll be gone forever—
the way the door closes
behind me with such solidity,
the way my suitcase
I’d need for an eternity
of traveling light.
I’ve left my hotel number
on your desk, instructions
about the dog
and heating dinner. But
like the weather front
they warn is on its
way with its switchblades
of wind and ice,
our lives have minds
of their own.
Copyright © Linda Pastan
In those first few days I
wanted to record everything
The old Westerner
sitting up straight in the cyclo
the way I had earlier
& I was trying to
read critical essays
but there was so much
more all the time which is good,
which is what Bishop
meant in “Casabianca:”
love’s the this,
the boy on the burning
deck and the sailors.
Woke up this a.m. feeling a lot better and finally began to search for apartments. The most promising one so far is an “expat guesthouse” located near my school, 300 USD/mo., shared space with 5 other teachers. From the outside the place doesn’t look like much–actually from the inside it doesn’t really either. It is located on a dusty street and you need a to open a gate to get in. I will have a room with AC and a bed and a closet, my own bathroom, use of the kitchen, living room, and rooftop terrace, and, believe it or not, a maid who does the laundry (even ironing)!
The main thing that I have had to get used to is the HEAT–it can really get to you and make you so tired. I drink about 2 L of water a day and just soak it all in. Last night there was a lizard on my wall in my hotel, as if to remind me where I was in case I forgot. I am looking forward to getting into a place where I can put all my stuff away–the transition period can be rather stressful as of course all I want to do is write poems and I can’t really do that when I have to get these life things out of the way shelter, figure out what food to eat, money etc. But I have a plan that once I get into this place and get new sheets and a lamp and get my AC going the words will start flowing again.
The other travelers I meet stress me out as well sometimes–it can be enough to just keep yourself sane without having to hear with every new person that they are homesick, they talk about how hard it is to be away from home and it just makes me wonder what they talk about when they are home and why they would decide to come all the way to Vietnam.
That said, I have the urge to call people from home a lot, the only reason I don’t is because I don’t know phone numbers. I have read and reread the comments DK wrote on my poems about 25 times since she gave them back to me, I’ve kept them in my carry-on, I’ve taken them to every cafe. I kept them in my bed with me when I was sick.
Virginia Woolf once said “I never travel without my diary. It is important to have something sensational to read in the train.” It is for the future poems that I am doing this. When I remember that, surprisingly it makes it all a little easier–they don’t even exist yet and already they are so reliable.
Part of Eve’s Discussion
What tree may not the fig be gathered from?
The grape may not be gathered from the birch?
It's all you know the grape, or know the birch.
As a girl gathered from the birch myself
Equally with my weight in grapes, one autumn,
I ought to know what tree the grape is fruit of.
I was born, I suppose, like anyone,
And grew to be a little boyish girl
My brother could not always leave at home.
But that beginning was wiped out in fear
The day I swung suspended with the grapes,
And was come after like Eurydice
And brought down safely from the upper regions;
And the life I live now's an extra life
I can waste as I please on whom I please.
So if you see me celebrate two birthdays,
And give myself out as two different ages,
One of them five years younger than I look-
One day my brother led me to a glade
Where a white birch he knew of stood alone,
Wearing a thin head-dress of pointed leaves,
And heavy on her heavy hair behind,
Against her neck, an ornament of grapes.
Grapes, I knew grapes from having seen them last
One bunch of them, and there began to be
Bunches all round me growing in white birches,
The way they grew round Lief the Lucky's German;
Mostly as much beyond my lifted hands, though,
As the moon used to seem when I was younger,
And only freely to be had for climbing.
My brother did the climbing; and at first
Threw me down grapes to miss and scatter
And have to hunt for in sweet fern and hardhack;
Which gave him some time to himself to eat,
But not so much, perhaps, as a boy needed.
So then, to make me wholly self-supporting,
He climbed still higher and bent the tree to earth,
And put it in my hands to pick my own grapes.
'Here, take a tree-top, I'll get down another.
Hold on with all your might when I let go.'
I said I had the tree. It wasn't true.
The opposite was true. The tree had me.
The minute it was left with me alone
It caught me up as if I were the fish
And it the fishpole. So I was translated
To loud cries from my brother of 'Let go!
Don't you know anything, you girl? Let go!'
But I, with something of the baby grip
Acquired ancestrally in just such trees
When wilder mothers than our wildest now
Hung babies out on branches by the hands
To dry or wash or tan, I don't know which
(You'll have to ask an evolutionist)
I held on uncomplainingly for life.
My brother tried to make me laugh to help me.
What are you doing up there in those grapes?
Don't be afraid. A few of them won't hurt you.
I mean, they won't pick you if you don't them/
Much danger of my picking anything!
By that time I was pretty well reduced
To a philosophy of hang-and-let-hang.
'Now you know how it feels/ my brother said,
* To be a bunch of fox-grapes, as they call them,
That when it thinks it has escaped the fox
By growing where it shouldn't on a birch,
Where a fox wouldn't think to look for it
And if he looked and found it, couldn't reach it-
Just then come you and I to gather it.
Only you have the advantage of the grapes
In one way: you have one more stem to cling by,
And promise more resistance to the picker/
One by one I lost off my hat and shoes,
And still I clung. I let my head fall back,
And shut my eyes against the sun, my ears
Against my brother's nonsense; 'Drop/ he said,
Til catch you in my arms. It isn't far/
(Stated in lengths of him it might not be. )
'Drop or I'll shake the tree and shake you down/
Grim silence on my part as I sank lower,
My small wrists stretching till they showed the banjo strings.
'Why, if she isn't serious about it!
Hold tight awhile till I think what to do.
I'll bend the tree down and let you down by it/
[ don't know much about the letting down;
But once I felt ground with my stocking feet
And the world came revolving back to me,
I know I looked long at my curled-up fingers.
Before I straightened them and brushed the bark off.
My brother said: 'Don't you weigh anything?
Try to weigh something next time., so you won't
Be run oft with by birch trees into space/
It wasn't my not weighing anything
So much as my not knowing anything
My brother had been nearer right before.
I had not taken the first step in knowledge;
I had not learned to let go with the hands,
As still I have not learned to with the heart,
And have no wish to with the heartnor need,
That I can see. The mind is not the heart.
I may yet live, as I know others live,
To wish in vain to let go with the mind
Of cares, at night, to sleep; but nothing tells me
That I need learn to let go with the heart.
It darted across the pond
toward our sunset perch,
weaving in, up, and around
a spindle of air,
this delicate engine
fired by impulse and glitter,
less image than thought,
and the thought came alive.
Swoosh went the net
with a practiced hand.
“Da-da, may I look too?”
You may look, child,
all you want.
This prize belongs to no one.
But you will pay all
your life for the privilege,
all your life.
Three people drinking out of the bottle
in the living room.
A cold rain. Quiet as a mirror.
One of the men
stuffs his handkerchief in his coat,
climbs the stairs with the girl.
The other man is left sitting
at the desk with the wine and the headache,
turning an old Ellington side
over in his mind. And over.
He held her like a saxophone
when she was his girl.
Her tongue trembling at the reed.
The man lying next to her now
thinks of another woman.
Her white breath idling
before he drove off.
He said something about a spell,
watching the snow fall on her shoulders.
crawls back into his horn,
at the approach of the wheel.
by Adrienne Rich
Those clarities detached us, gave us form,
Made us like architecture. Now no more
Bemused by local mist, our edges blurred,
We knew where we began and ended. There
We were the campanile and the dome
Alive and separate in that bell-struck air,
Climate whose light reformed our random line,
Edged our intent and sharpened our desire.
Could it be always so: a week of sunlight,
Walks with a guidebook picking out our way
Through verbs and ruins, yet finding after all
The promised vista, once!—The light has changed
Before we can make it ours. We have no choice:
We are only tourists under that blue sky,
Reading the posters on the station wall:
Come, take a walking-trip through happiness.
There is a mystery that floats between
The tourist and the town. Imagination
Estranges it from her. She need not suffer
Or die here. It is none of her affair,
Its calm heroic vistas make no claim.
Her bargains with disaster have been sealed
In another country. Here she goes untouched,
And this is alienation. Only sometimes,
In certain towns she opens certain letters
Forwarded on from bitter origins,
That send her walking, sick and haunted, through
Mysterious and ordinary streets
That are no more than streets to walk and walk—
And then the tourist and the town are one.
To work and suffer is to be at home.
All else is scenery: the Rathaus fountain,
The skaters in the sunset on the lake
At Salzburg, or, emerging after snow,
The singular clear stars of Castellane.
To work and suffer is to come to know
The angles of a room, light in a square,
As convalescents learn the face of one
Who has watched beside them. Yours now, every street,
The noonday swarm across the bridge, the bells
Bruising the air above the crowded roofs,
The avenue of chestnut-trees, the road
To the post-office. Once upon a time
All these for you were fiction. Now, made free
You live among them. Your breath is on this air,
And you are theirs and of their mystery.
Pulling Down the Sky
(the Sistene Chapel)
Piece by piece the sky was hacked, the star-flung heaven made years before,
its sheen of gold & ultramarine. And the firmament turned to pigmented dust
that caked & stained their forearms & necks & rained down in wide, benedictory arcs
into the space below. It grew dark, of course, & they worked torch-lit
& a man said said plaster, bucket. A man said scaffold, whore. And the hammers
mauling the sky from that height swallowed up the sounds from below:
a robed boy scurrying from the candles, the sunset vesper thrum.
And when they rested, they saw the ruin they had made & knew what was needed
would be done. To pull down the entire barrel vault blue, each starred width
of heaven. To prepare the space where they sky had been for, yes, a god
& the shapes of god. Of cloth, a mule, a knuckle. An axe, a bowl, some bread.
Kate’s poem’s speaker didn’t want to write about HIM, but she did, and Kate got such a beautiful poem out of it; lucky Kate, that she can do that.
Dr. Hayes said you should never refer to a poet as the speaker in her poem and poked fun of people who’d done so, but he also bought us pizza and Coke and said we were occasionally brilliant.
Walked home from school slowly, again, lucky life, and still frequently feel lucky in libraries and while looking at and walking around old buildings like cathedrals and less ornate things as grand in scale like wind turbines.
In Northfield I felt lucky the question Did I know how many people he had made happy? found its way into “Johnny Carson Poem”; lucky, lucky life.
Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you,
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,
leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs–
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.
These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let’s go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let’s tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let’s pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let’s dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn’t been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let’s go down to the diner and sniff
people’s legs. Let’s stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man’s mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let’s go to sleep. Let’s lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he’ll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he’ll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let’s just go back inside.
Let’s not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing? The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let’s go make a sandwich.
Let’s make the tallest sandwich anyone’s ever seen.
And that’s what they do and that’s where the man’s
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept–
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.
In a gymnasium in natural mostly gone dark, I sat on the floor watching a small, old-fashioned television set.
It was cold, and when I pulled a blanket over my legs, he took some too and also put both his hands over my hands and moved closer.
When the performance ended he stood, asked me in the light if I wanted to go
to a movie.
“Sure,” I said, my heart beating fast; people still did this? We walked outside. He opened the door to his Saab and we sat, didn’t talk, just drove.
He wore sunglasses, looked over once, smiled.
“Will you drop me off so I can take a shower, and then pick me back up again?”
I looked out my window, smiling to myself. The next twenty minutes or so would be the best I’ve had in years; the sunshine, the chances.
Meaning a preference for something.
She enjoys the beach, likes it. Meaning he’ll want
or choose, do as he likes. Meaning similarity,
a winter morning like that first in Minong, Wisconsin.
Meaning one thing typical of another, lying in bed
between the windows, the frames caked in frost
like eyelids crusty from sleep. Meaning as though
it would or should be. She said the clouds
look like rain. Meaning such as. A room lacking
in subjects, like physics. Meaning counterparts,
a group similar, and the like. Meaning resemblance.
Lovelike. More precise for what there was?
A man lying in bed beside a woman, about whom
he wrote poems of love and never did.
Jevin Boardman is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate in Hamline’s Graduate School of Liberal Studies program. He is unpublished (until now) and resides in Saint Paul, Minnesota.