Stuffing a planet in your pocket, what would you
find about time, or the time you didn’t own a pocket;
also, the vast empty of what we can’t keep in mind
like this morning’s snow as if it could capture a sense
of space, lost time or anything except what’s cobbled
from other snow falls, fraught moments, like the time
I stole cereal from the Benson General Store for Emmy
which was also a kind of empty, but not what gets
described with mathematics as space dimensions.
I read a book once that said human history could be told
as a sequence of invented drinks: beer, wine, whisky, tea,
coffee, and coke—coke being the greatest deviation
from the nature but you can’t tell where to draw the line
between natural or what’s made up, like the quark nobody’s
seen with a naked eye or how theft could make sense.
Beer was discovered when barley was left in a vat
catching water, somebody tasting it with that empty-pocket
feeling like a mother in a row of Benson General cereal.
Who can put it all together—the sympathetic, the synthetic,
the analytic and the peculiar way things evolve in time
and space, the links between drinks, as beer is to coke.
You probably read books too and like me, doubt that a single
moral standard exists. You know space does, but you’re
not sure where, in the end, it empties which is what you feel
when you’re off into a winter snow by yourself and you
think you know snow, common as your coat pocket but
then it melts to the empty you never know what to do about.
If, in summer’s dalliance of screen doors
there’s a warp on the last board
so nothing closes right,
you are evasive, aslant,
Why do I take up the you burden
carry it all day, suppose
these quibbles will dissolve
in evening’s chilled soup?
How is it that across tables, yards, long roads
next towns, cities, the sea
the mass and graining of everything
winds back to you?
Turn over any stone:
after the leaf and downpour
after the feather net of tent moths
the maples in final fade
It is you again in the settle, in the cry.
America wears a helmet when it’s learning to ride a tricycle
because so many things can happen, Bam, just like that;
it also wears dog parks and when Sunday comes the TV
wears ball parks.
If you’ve ever been asleep when a dog barks, you know
it’s been hanging out with skate boarders at the mall while
a percent of the population is down the street getting
their fingernails purple with a few stars.
It also wears goggles so its eyes don’t get wet
underwater, insists hair do’s stay on the same page,
and holds power point meetings with snacks that have
little orange cellophane halos on sticks.
It’s a known, but little advertised, fact that America
pisses behind gas stations because the door is locked,
and if you think it’s a kind of sheetrock don’t, because
that’s milk of magnesia without the blue.
For me, America is most endearing when it’s a child
wearing a pair of underpants on its head and you
can’t see its demise anywhere, even when there is
a prayer meeting about it and everybody cries.
When the gods died, virgins down under, blood mall,
love loot, heroes broke on etch and barbed lattice,
women screaming from the windows;
what would come next except the saints, cryptic quiet,
robed in air and scry, peasants haying their losses,
patriarchs drawn taut to the perfect;
then the mystery-makers: tapestry, perfumed restraint
in the form of lavish chant and incantation codified,
miniscule rule twisted and upbraided
until, holed up in their huts and mulling, the commoners
crawled from the ethereal black to tinker, trade,
and wattle together sticks, reeds, clay —
now makers, leaving us to a splayed new planet
(umbrellas, bathtubs, trombones, refined sugar),
everyone carrying bundles on and on, up the road.
Rusted mesh metal roped to the dock — the bait
box held a catfish caught in the neighbor’s mucky
rowboat harbor. What happened that day, I have to ask —
when Uncle Ray dumped catch from his creel into the box
as we all watched — that catfish became the catch word
for oddity, attached like an inside pocket to Ray, sly angler,
me, the rapt one with bamboo pole, bait and watery line,
longing for his favor. Years later Ray taught French,
Spanish, and Russian grammar, moved to Uruguay
to find a perfect democracy, drank, recovered, wrote
a book on functions of the verb to be — and shot himself
at the age I am now. So, though you may not
always see it in my eyes, I am in a watery deep —
the hook of him, the worm of what happened.
Lynne Potts has three books of poetry, two published by the National Poetry Review Press and one by Glass Lyre Press. Her work has appeared in The Southern Review, Paris Review, Yale Review, American Literary Review, American Letters, Backwards City Review, California Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, Confrontation, Crab Orchard Review, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Georgetown Review, Meridian, New American Writing, New Millennium Writing, Southern Humanities Review, Southern Poetry Review, Tampa Review, Texas Review, Third Coast, Water Stone Review among others. Her work has been chosen for Poetry Daily and she has read at numerous venues in Boston and New York, the most recent being the KGB in New York.
Lynne received a MFA in poetry from Columbia University in 2006. She is Poetry Editor at AGNI, the literary journal published at Boston University.