On my first reading of this poem, I felt disoriented by all the non sequiturs, all the disconnected images leaping here and there. But then I thought: isn’t this how my own attention works (or doesn’t work)? The poem skips in a breath from winter snow to the red line train to the speaker’s sins “of digression.” Later the speaker moves—in the space of a period—from the mirror in which “I cannot recollect / my face” to an artichoke and the spoon to eat it with. At the poem’s end we are back in the train… but then suddenly we’re observing “the glossy Tyvek.” Tyvek on what? We’re not told. The poem seems chaotic, intentionally so. It carefully crafts a vision of the world as wildly scattered pieces. We’re left longing for a grounding beneath it all—the grounding that, for me, would be God.
for Connor Stratman
How winter keeps us warm now: the anesthetic snow
sifting from its anesthetic sky. A man hocks spit in the alley
for each day’s white on white, but we both live on the red line,
we are both still waiting on this train. Because my sins
are those of digression, or else of intermittence, the kitchen light
slants otherwise, reflected in the glass. In your voice
there are countable nouns. In reply I can say only
Dear friend, unhinge my heart. I have been so long underwater.
In the mirror I cannot recollect
my face. Let me offer you this artichoke, this spoon, this foil
crown. Together we can be bony and eat
a modest bite. I could say I was once a lit thing, and will
long always for fire, but instead I heat the kettle
and we hunch like bookish schoolboys at our cups. There are houses
we could reckon, but my tongue sticks
to the pane. Neither of us knows what happens next,
but because in sleep you smell of tobacco and aftershave,
I will turn to you on waking to say, don’t
be afraid. Like the lake, I have churned for eons
athwart at my very own shore. And here you are, in whom I dare
corroborate a spring. On the train, discarded tickets
jetsam in the snow-mush at our feet. The lake
is a magnetic strip on which I fix
my gaze. There. See how the glossy Tyvek still looks new?
Good Letters first published this poem on July 22, 2016.