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Poetry

Just yesterday I thought, it’s as if almost three years of my life

vanished, in a mist, the memories are both partial and distorted,

who was that person, what was I thinking, what did I say,

days and months went by this way, years, I wrote a few poems,

even more the poems that went unwritten, and then I drove

to the singing this morning, in the hall by the deep river

about which I’ve dreamed intermittently since 2004, at least

when I was dreaming, before that too was taken from me,

 

outside it was overcast and then it was raining again but music

was still present to succor us, I could throw myself

into music, into the act of others throwing themselves, this

was a tiny nation I had pledged fealty to long ago, it was like

reciting the pledge of allegiance except with bells in the throat,

I thought, of all days, I thought, some of the people

in this large room I will never meet, will never know, others

I’ve known for more than half my life, I was drowsy and then

 

my voice failed and I moved from the front row to the back,

remembering Carl Carmer and his journey through Alabama

in an election year, that made everything a candidate,

the young woman in the orange dress on the front pew

of that clapboard church, not quite like this (this rented hall)

but the women here favor print dresses and it’s close enough,

the tossing of the head, the hair, my vocal cords descended

into the hell of the body and came up singing, then they froze,

 

it was a single choking motion, I was making a sound

and then I wasn’t, and the rain mizzled off, I was driving

back through the mist, an actual mist, it was as if

having stumbled up to some acme, some point of vantage,

I had plunged back down again into sightlessness, or perhaps

the mist had shifted, I had outraced it for a moment,

gotten ahead or behind it, the superposition, I could see

clearly the landscape of my life, the little farms and villages

 

with their monuments and hardware stores, I wasn’t part

of the scene because I was at this high clear elevation,

I thought, I can remember imagining my life, I can just recall

what it felt like to work, to plan, to make of myself

a thread in the bright tapestry, before it was snatched back,

I could feel my life hopelessly disclosed, swept past,

I don’t even remember the townships I drove through

(the map ticks their names: Sunderland, Montague, Erving,

 

Northfield, Winchester, Swanzey, Keene), and then

the eye’s pattern-recognition software kicked in, it was one

of the bogs I had no name for, they were just bogs

hemmed in between Marlborough and Dublin, flag-plaqued

before the nice houses of Dublin and the bona fide lakes,

there was nothing there, lush reed beds in the mist,

it was entirely unremarkable, but in the flicker of my passage

I remembered I had seen an enormous blue heron

 

once, on the north side of the road (New Hampshire 101),

precisely there, stalking something in the blackish

water, this could have been 2001 or 2006 or 2012,

there’s no way to tell, the mind filed it under “miscellaneous,”

the mind filed it under “icon,” under “rubbish,” the mind

filed it under “evidence for the existence of God,

q.v.,” I was flipping pages to find the proper reference

when the mist seized everything again, I remember wanting

 

something so badly, and then—not wanting, and then merely

moving about in a landscape that had been scarred

by music, by the making and then the memory of music,

by the rare earth elements that had been necessary

to reproduce that music, to make it more widely available, music

you see was for a time one of the few things that penetrated

the mist, I left the hall before the singing was over,

it was late and I convinced myself I had to be somewhere

 

else, by five, I missed the prayers and the announcements,

I was already back in the mist, could feel it thrumming

where my vocal cords had been, raw and terrible, other people

were setting up their barbecues in the countryside

and readying themselves for the fireworks, I thought vaguely

how it’s always best to avoid the valley towns on the days

of the old pagan festivals, this is ancient prudence, and then

the mind remembered, the mind placed its polarized

 

glass on top of what the eye perceived, it was like that,

a black-body problem, I nearly veered from the pavement,

it was not quite dusk and the bones of the dead lay perfectly

in their respectable graves, those at least who were dead,

who were respectably dead, I kept passing their white stones,

their whitewashed demesnes, what I am telling you now

is that the first thing to pour back through that dank gate

was neither choice nor joy nor reason, but a terrible hunger—


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