Reel rolling from the spliced-together lot
of my past, this time around: senior year
of high school, singsong voiceover of girls
bowing to whatever she said, Yes, Sister/
No, Sister as still shots are superimposed
on our faces: lone crow on a fencepost,
cow silhouetted against late afternoon.
Byron, Keats, Shelley—lining up to wander
line after senseless line. Close-up of me,
foreboding worming through my body. I’d break
lines into fractions of lines, take one word
at a time. But try as I might, I could not
make those whorls equal a thing. There was nothing
I could say about the Romantics, No, Sister.
In my mind, their writing was bloated
enough to sink a small boat, swallow it.
If that was poetry, I wanted none
in my life. Yet each night in homework, that’s
where I kept being sent. Juxtapose Jonah
and the city he did not want to go to.
If he obeyed the voice in his head,
he thought he’d be destroyed. When he did not,
there he was, spiraling down and down, inside
a whale’s belly, the whole shebang, Yes, Sister,
a black hole. Who ever comes back from there?
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.