I had reached the end of recorded history.
Fragments of faces floated on the churning goat milk seas,
acquaintances, smokers, their lips thin. Others committed suicide,
the test of fascism so acrid. No way to deny
my mentor’s complicity. Nor that of
the Captain of the Green Police
who stocked local bars with contraband.
My face purple under the flaring fluorescent light
after swilling Cognac mit sprudel
to please, I thought, my Father.
No image of self-loathing has matched
my perception then of my adolescent face
in that yellow century where the coffee was cut with chicory.
Always withdrawn, diffident, I was nonetheless
an actor with a role to play. The eiron,
Jacques or Hamlet, dismissive
of the value of multiple, passionate insights
into the nature of things, all leaden
to me, as I climbed my personal mountain.
Fellow pilgrims spoke of distant lands
and entertaining anecdotes, uttered by luminaries.
No doubt gossip helps ease quotidian boredom,
the utter flatness of the staged plateaus.
The hills of northern Minnesota can make a person giddy, she said,
the car climbing a slope and all were short of breath. We sought
the northern most clime, the aurora borealis,
windmilling through the night sky.
I’ve never really been anywhere I’ve been.
Is this the common fate of poets?
In all directions the horizontal plane swallows
the vertical axis once associated with destiny.
Drones returning from their forays
no longer find the hive. Field mice
have nested in the flooded tunnels.
Torrents had uprooted their bodies and sent
them and their swollen bellies
to their historical doom under the cellar
of the floating house, scudding across flatlands and ice floes.
A response to Keith Tuma’s On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes, Salt, 2011.