POETRY: Three by Troy Jollimore
A bend in the river.
A flaw in the surface.
How many continents
has this lone oriole
crossed to come balance
on our sagging clothesline,
and what urgent thing
is he trying to tell us?
That those who could translate
his song are lagging
a thousand miles
behind? Or that those
who can speak both his tongue
and ours have not yet
been born, that we will go
into the ground
and a thousand years pass
before their eyes open,
the wayward atoms
of our nests and tongues
having been dispersed,
reassigned, and repurposed
into their bright,
No more swamp existence for you, with all
its pleasures, all that rooting around
in forgotten quarters for forgotten nickels.
No more meretricious jazz piano
eliding your way between gross destinations,
unreviewed memoirs by former conundrums,
videos of venal comebacking musicians
going viral on the spiral screen. No more
slowly starving cathedrals into being,
no more convalescing by feel, no more
nosing out the neglected harmonica part
that was meant to fluff out the flourish but got
buried so deep in the mix you could get
the bends coming up from that. No more
lonesome nights on the couch of the cute girl who
will never think of you as anything but
“that sad guy that sleeps on my couch sometimes.”
No more paid lunch hours reciting quasi-
pornography in limbic pentameter, no more
coughing up eloquently Venn-diagrammed
faux-Whitmanesque vibes. No more driving everyone
nuts insisting that the less frequently
listened-to B-side is where the genius really lies.
No more perturbing the air with your smooth
but inscrutable pantomime gestures. No more
bop bop bopping along the Via
Negativa while grasping the dangling string
of a helium balloon bouquet with all
thy might, as if it somehow really mattered,
as if, if you could only hold on…
No more lamenting the precipitous decline
of the panic industry, the sudden disappearance
of the Flightless Dough, the unforeseen renaissance
of the infidels with their zinfandels. No more
making goddamn sure that your goddamn verbs
agree with your goddamn nouns, no more
assaulting strangers with spray cheese in
the street to protest your parents’ politics.
No more wet dreams, no more dry ice, no more
dry heaves, no more wetware, no more sad sacks,
the anti-world has given you notice,
there’s no more going going, no more coming coming back.
First we tamed heat, and we called it fire.
Then we tamed light, and we called it the movies.
Then came the sky, such an obvious idea
we were kicking our unhelpful hands for hours,
and birds to puff up the little scars in it.
Fortune-tellers arrived the next day,
there was much spirit traffic in the streets,
and I decided I wanted to call you up
but we hadn’t taught telephones how to ring yet.
People used to play with every part of
the pig back then, which is how you know
that we are in serious decline. Why not
declare war on those who think otherwise?
But that would be messy and frustrating and
Saturnalia is equally entertaining,
even though I hear its organizing committee
is as rotten as last month’s melons.
Egalitarianism may be in a soft
death spiral but scientists tell us new forms
of thought will continue evolving in all sorts
of corners and crevices your average human
couldn’t finesse a finger into,
which might be a source of hope in dark times
and is, at any rate, something fine
to chat about idly at cocktail parties.
Tonight there will be fireworks, thousands of miles
from any human observer and on
the sub-molecular level. I’m going
to get a bottle of wine anyway,
and a lightweight folding picnic table.
I’m hoping that you’ll come too.
∂ ∫∫∫ ∂ ∫∫∫ ∂ ∫∫∫ ∂ ∫∫∫ ∂
Troy Jollimore is the author of At Lake Scugog and Tom Thomson in Purgatory, as well as two philosophical works: Love’s Vision and On Loyalty. His awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the John L. Simon Guggenheim Foundation. His third book of poems, Syllabus of Errors, will be published by Princeton this year.