Lynne Potts

POETRY Prose Books Home

A Sense of Empty

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.

The Relentless Pronoun

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.

Helmets, Goggles, America

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.

Whole Worlds Had Already Happened

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.

State of Being

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.