Relativity and Other Poems
As if anything ever means anything
alone: these words come sudden to mind—
“out of nowhere”—that place in the brain
the self empties into as it moves,
that great cave, that vacuum, that bin, that been.
It’s this fret of leaving, how it cleaves
to me, even as we cleaved to each other last night;
our coming together freighted, fraught,
making what seemed a long, sweating argument
against all dying. I’ll get this way, lunging
against work and duties, as this time of year
birds will, too—a clinging, a solemn mass
of parting—or so I’m reading that queen-anne’s-lace
of snow geese on the field, that dark twister
of blackbirds rising above a feedlot.
US 82, west of Lubbock—the broken lines
of highway plunging toward me, back to you.
to river reeds
where voices bend them
towards each other
As we approach,
the near ones curl
in waves away
to the opposite shore,
and another shore
of thought—the mind
of species. Flocks
of teal and mallard,
the high and shapely
flight of cranes—
wing of V
a scarf that lilts
from an invisible throat
in self-made wind.
we bend our voices
toward each other
among these things
we know not:
man and woman,
the ways within.
Cool evening falls, dark manna
on this half-desert land. Yet I run
the air conditioner, because
the house baked all day,
trapping the heat inside;
and I dare not open the windows,
since tonight they're spraying
the town for mosquitoes again:
a hardy breed that harbors
an ugly strain of virus.
After nightfall they cruise
the streets—official pickups
with flashing lights, machine-gun
apparatus mounted on the bed,
firing its gas automatically.
In bed, I read about a war
in Africa, in a magazine loaded
with hip journalism, where the author
is a character, narrating like a pulp
novel—and I'll be damned
if I'm not entertained: Tribal
Warfare Meets International
Arms Trade, as pickups
bristling with boys and AK-47's
roam shell-pocked streets
where anything's for sale,
and certain characters named Drought
and Famine enter like figures
in an allegory one half of which—
the meaning half—is missing.
And underneath the reading,
I'm waiting for the engine,
the yellow flash. In the war zone,
the journalist is down to his last
hundred dollar bill.
I turn off the light. I'm safe
in a town where we burn
coal to cool ourselves in the cool
evening we can't breathe
for roving trucks, plying
their smoke across our lawns.
William Wenthe has poems forthcoming in Poetry, Ontario Review, Tin House, Ninth Letter, and other journals. His second book, Not Till We Are Lost (LSU 2004), also won the Best Book of Poetry Prize from The Texas Institute of Letters; his first book is Birds of Hoboken (Orchises 1995; reprinted 2003). He teaches creative writing and modern poetry at Texas Tech University. You can learn more about Mr. Wenthe at http://www.faculty.english.ttu.edu/wenthe/.
Photo Courtesy of morgueFile.
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Poems Copyright © 2006 William Wenthe. All rights reserved.