Wednesday, January 25, 2012


John Berryman's Dream Song 29 ends:

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

A friend has toyed with the notion of inking those last two lines on his forearm, walking into Capitol City Tattoo and anointing himself with Basil Hayden while the words are made indelible. Yes, tonight I am missing Madison and the friends and words I found there. Reading Berryman makes me think of the Upper Midwest and those unflinching Minnesota winds that rip through the thickest layers, blindly fingering into every crevice of your down parka, your wool cruiser, your polypropylene thermals. And I think of frozen lakes and others, a lake I love and cannot fathom my heart from its pineneedled bottom. I think of Berryman's body pulled from waters. I-94 rivers. Self-enders. Jumpers. Peelers. Floaters. Sinkers. 

What else? I was thinking of externalized systems of emotion, of emoticons and Facebook, of storing numbers in your phone instead of memorizing them or keeping a book. Systems of not having to remember, letting machines do it for us. And of these technologies some kind of body that holds us, drowns us, makes us invisible to one another. Though that's not really it. A feeling too, like when I was on Facebook some years ago, I started to lose touch with some of my friends who weren't on there, like I had been swimming in some warm pool of un-thinking-ness, slowly dissolving in the newsfeed bath of reinforced world-view and triviality, caught in the screen and floating, forgetting. That's the atmosphere, how it felt to me anyway....

If you haven't already purchased and devoured a copy of Adam Fell's I Am Not a Pioneer, please do. It's the most remarkable poetry debut of the past year and a true grit heartsong of a collection. I could go on and on, but he's a dear friend and it would just be embarrassing. Trust me. Read it. Plus here's a well-written review in praise of the book. One of the first poems is titled "Reckoner." This is a response to that-- tributary, secondary, derivative. So go read his first. I'll wait. This'll be here in the morning. And what follows is a mess, but by putting it up here, I'll make myself want to go to work on it more. And soon. Blog as studio wall. Blog as pea soup in the pot needing more flavor.

reckon: v. 1. To count or compute; 2. to regard as; 3. to think or assume; 4. to settle accounts; 5. to figure, recall, remember. 


After the reclaiming and the dredgings,
the new pilings and the shovelings, 

we bathe in its shades: gin clear,
fluorescent grey, screensaver blue.

But overnight the lake hides itself
slides its manhole cover over

and it’s over.  Shunk


Each heart-warm friend you reckon
them up in rosy dawn

Each name a bead in the bracelet
Each name a thanksgiving 
and a remembering
Reckoner, saw us from the ice.
Unglaze our eyes, thaw us
on the shores by a fire made to you.


If you’re not on the lake
where are you?

You know our faces making light
echoes below the ripples

Seen and unseen
like the black current beneath the ice

like a Ghost Man on second.


Since we uploaded into the cloud
the earth misses us.

It hasn’t rained for months.

All your campfire girls
All your drowned fuselages and kelped wrecks
All your pine pollen parades
Your mouthfuls, your gulped breaths

How many gigabytes is that?


Somewhere Midwestern boys
are palm-piloting flat rocks

across your skin sending telegraphs
to the future. And where are you going?

Come back. Echo back.


A mother mallard nestles into soft needles
to make her home above rocks
where a boy with a stick is sure to find her.

If you are grateful that you’re not a body
recovered from a winter river
raise your hand

If you can distinguish the thrills of joy and the thrills of pain
raise both hands and thrash around a bit.


I want to stand here a little longer.

In the face of the water at night
stars make replicas of themselves
to replace us.

How many of us can you hold
before the memory is full?
It is starting to rain.

Where is your warm hand for my hand?

No comments:

Post a Comment