I could not keep my eyes open watching that movie
about the important 19th century English painter
and his unhealthy sexual habits and love for the sea—
though could anything be more universal? Maybe it’s just me.
Still, I kept floating in and out of the plot like curtain
in a breeze. Earlier that day I had written a poem about moving
away from a place I’d grown to love, and to stave off the nostalgia
that threatened to rock the poem to sleep, I flipped through a dictionary
and my finger landed on the word shoot. It lay sandwiched
between the entries for shook and shooting star, meaning I was somewhere
between fear and wishing, which is acceptance, and isn’t that what they tell you to shoot for?
The dictionary has that spectacular ability of keeping words at a distance.
Regardless, I am going to miss my second story apartment and the sun room with the window,
above which the same bird has returned each spring to nest
in the crook between a waterspout and the white clapboards of a building formerly known,
according to the lettering above the door, as Gerlich Manor. This time
my finger lands on billet-doux; then crepe; antacid; eventually, landscape.
If you do this enough you may arrive at a word that fits your purpose.
The English painter famously returned to lodge at a cottage overlooking the ocean.
It was there he set many of his landscapes at sunset. Bloodying them with reds and yellows
imported, or pillaged, probably, from someplace that wasn’t Britain.
I just can’t imagine anything as vibrant as the colors he used to depict his shipwrecks coming from a locale
where clouds take their summer vacation, where the word humdrum was coined.
Maybe it’s just me. It’s April 11th and yesterday it snowed. From my window
I can see the wall that separates the Minnesota River from the street, as if the two couldn’t be
trusted together. To compensate, the city contracted local artists to paint a mural of the river
along the wall, making it a river on a wall that imagines the river before the wall.
This time it’s sensory, then ditch, bluegrass, and sediment: matter deposited by water or wind.
The problem with these kinds of poems is that they may begin to drift,
making them difficult to corral, like tempests—each one announcing itself
as the last. I fell asleep before the English painter learned this elementary fact:
you cannot trap the sea inside a frame anymore than you can a robin in a window, or a river in a box.
The problem with inviting everything in, is that nothing is revealed. In order to get an accurate picture
of the host, you must triage the details. Enact the loss that is his defining feature.