V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




Often I imagined simplicity as the center
of a vast well of darkness that radiated
out, something to be summoned

infinitely, indefinitely. Skirts and wagons
and spokes were turning up and turning around
while depth soundings and the business

of sugar plantations ebbed far into
past tense. Overridden debt claimed
the homestead and the last things made: false

teeth with our surname miniaturized into the gum
so as not to be lost at the nursing home’s
mass bathings. Or I noticed it among

the daffodils and peonies that came back
every spring, or in the rusty hasp of the shed’s lock
which refused to open on humid days.

Inside was the hand-tooled bridle, masculine
flowers rubbed into the leather in a pantomime
of beauty. Often I wandered back

to that field where the horses stood in the clover
and I sat down in the mounds of grass
that encroached on the city limits.

That motion saves me:
sometimes the simplest thing
is the one you can’t repeat. I can’t go back

to that place. That time is gone, that spot
now cultivated for genetically modified corn
experiments by Monsanto. Another simple thing

that can’t be repeated: family. They’re scattered
to the wind’s currents. Reality comes crashing
the party: they are not here. They are not

anywhere. Simple. There were brown spots
cut off, salves circled into the skin, the indignity
of the catheters and dribbling across the pile.

There was a clock with half a face, hands
drawn into tight fists, an applesauce rush
down the chin. That time shimmers.

My mother used to ask why I never wrote
happy poems. I thought I had been. I was happy
writing poems. And I have tried

to reconstruct other circles,
the names of each guest perched
on a gray folding chair: Ron, Carl, Wendy,

Leslie, Oliver, Kim. Their voices pierce
time, bounce off the silver coffee urn
and get buried in the shag. I try

to listen to the old complaints but the future
intrudes: now, now, now, do, do, do.
Don’t go back and marry the class clown. Don't

speed on old Route 13 the night a deer
lopes across your lane. Don’t pretend
the car was stolen when your father notices

it missing from the driveway. Don’t arc
off the rocks into a nest
of copperheads roiling under the dark water.


© by Margot Schilpp


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