Almost, the therapist would say,
Almost. Dear Angie, a paid optimist.
And so again she’d slide the pen
And paper across the sunroom table. The first
At first held upside down for
A moment or simply dropped or flung
Aside. The second a thing mostly just stared at.
Again, the pen, the paper.
April, May, June, July—months of bitten, broken,
Aligned to probe an earhole with,
A crumpled morsel to be tasted or swallowed until
Aglow late one afternoon
Angie rushes out to greet us with what looks like
A toddler’s tepee slashed once in rage incarnate—the letter
“A” as adduced by my father after his third stroke.
Also per Klaus, the King of Chimpanzees, in his cage
At the International de Paris in 1937—held up for the crowd—
Étonnant! Neither of which was ever followed by
Another letter, let history record, let alone a word.
Alone—yes. Side by side, as I’ve placed them. Their scanned
And printed-out facsimiles
Affixed with thumbtacks to the whitewashed wall
Above my desk, the silence there
A silence my shadow-head leans into, listening.
As if someday an answer will emerge from it:
which the more pitiable.
Ah, no. The more les dieux absents. The more complete.
The Gun My Sister Killed Herself With
Was a cubit long and weighed half as much
As an average newborn U.S. baby.
Who sold it to her remains a matter of police conjecture,
A “collector,” most likely, or a friend in need
Of cash—no receipt ever surfaced.
What she did between the time she got it and the act
Adds little to the picture: coffee at McDonalds,
A few words exchanged with a balding man in an Army
Jacket outside the 7-Eleven on Broadway, no phone calls,
No letter. When my mother got the news
She was hanging sheets to dry on the backyard
Clothes—neighbors heard her
Cry two blocks over and thought a cat had died.
(Where, exactly, Father spent that afternoon: c.f.
Conjecture.) How Irish-pretty she was, pale, petite,
Kind, smart and slyly funny are duly noted now on
Her birthday, in photographs and little tales
That end in tears that end in silence: we the cage
And Rilke’s panther pacing there, a thousand bars
And beyond the bars no world but why.
At the midpoint
Of my life I didn’t feel I was in a submarine
Silently crossing the International Date Line,
Nor get the sense of cinder-stitched allées stretching out
Between shadowy walls of phosphorescent foliage.
And I definitely didn’t see myself as a granite statue
Beating itself into an idea with a granite hammer.
Maybe I heard birdsong, but no bird.
Or maybe I was the bird and my birdsong
Was this: cries from some childhood playground,
A dull dental work ache like a provincial orchestra
Tuning up in my veins. Chair scrapes
Followed by the roar of a gem-polishing machine.
The number 42, 42, 42, pronounced in Esperanto
As if a freezing prisoner in a courtyard
Was pleading for his life—
Kvardek du, kvardek du, kvardek du.
And, of course, the headwinds, howling in
From the North, starting to make a weathervane creak
Beneath a galloping horse that stands perfectly still.
All poems copyright © Daniel Lawless 2018