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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Reading Keith Tuma's On Leave

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Always withdrawn, diffident, I was nonetheless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.


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