John Linstrom: "Out of State"




Somewhere in Michigan

the creek has frozen

and the streetlamp-yellowed snow

is creased by tree shadow

where I stood

beside the broken lawn chair

left by neighbors, where I traced

Courtney Burrows’ backbone, undid pigtails,

and thought about the sonatina

I’d been practicing in lessons.


I thirst remembering

that creek bed,

drink it like water—

a simple matter of muscle

memory, flow of melody

from tendons subconsciously tugged.


But we are graduates, and we kiss

in rooms with creaky floors.

A foreign city’s wind sounds

like almost any other; your heart

keeps standard time—

I feel it in your neck.

The light from the window

falls on the piano,

which is missing some internal hammers,

and the sonatina returns

as my fingers tap

the tune of passing cars

on the small of your back.



John Linstrom is an MFA candidate in creative writing and environment at Iowa State University and co-director at the Liberty Hyde Bailey Museum in South Haven, Michigan. His critical essays have appeared in The Twainian and Valparaiso Poetry Review.