Weeds – Nathaniel Perry

I told you I was worried. Water
had collected up against the foundation
from the rain we had, and you must have thought
I was talking about our foundation,

though I meant, of course, the one beneath
the house. But it was too late, your mood
had changed and then my mood was changed,
and we charged around the house mooding

and changing. I siphoned the water
away from the house, which took a while,
which was probably good. You made dinner,
which was good, and also took a while.

As we ate, the sun drew familiar
shapes on our walls, but we didn’t notice.
And then the light slipped down and made
a bright new shape, but we didn’t notice.

Well, lovelies, it has been a while! I didn’t realize it had been so long since I’d thrown anything up here.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know how obsessed I am with Nathaniel Perry (his brother, Drew, is also an incredible writer; it must run in the family). N. Perry’s whole book is beautiful, but I’ve been particularly drawn to this one lately. I love how real this is. I can very easily believe that quarrels between lovers start out this way, some misunderstanding both parties let blow out of proportion. Fault on both sides, silent brooding and mooding and charging (also, I just can’t get enough of that phrase, “and we charged around the house mooding / and changing.”). So I love this.

If you’re interested in reading more by him, check out Green Manures and Cover Crops; In Bloom, Where the Meadow Rises; Remaking a Neglected Orchard; and my ties for all-time favorite, Tried and True Ways to Fail and Grafting Fruit Trees.

Cheers!

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Eight-Ball

My father taught me how to level
a pool cue across the bridge of my hand
on the table. He’d take me
to the kinds of bars open in daytime,
lit by dim fluorescents in the ceiling
and neon beer signs hanging
over faded green felt.

I would pour my own tall glass
from the tea pitcher on the wait table
while he placed the balls in their rack:
yellow ‘1’ at the head, black ‘8’ in the center,
a stripe-solid-stripe pattern resting
inside the white plastic triangle.
When he finished, he would knock
its three corners with the cue ball;
say it kept them all together.

I learned to recognize the clack
a pool cue makes against the ball when it needs
chalk; the feel of testing a shot before swinging
even, my arm a pendulum; and the number of scratches
against the lock his key would make
before I could offer to fit it in, turn the knob.

I’m excited to show off the final version of this poem, and to announce that it is doing well out in the world! It will be published in Issue 65 of Colonnades, Elon’s very own literary and art journal, which will be revealed on April 29. It’s also a finalist for the 2014 NC State Poetry Contest and an Honorable Mention for the Anthony Abbott Award.

On a personal note, it’s also probably the poem I’m the proudest of at the moment, so I’m thrilled it’s found a home in print and in these contests.

Coming to This – Mark Strand

We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.
The wine waits.

Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.

This came through my inbox the other day thanks to Poetry Foundation, and I was blown away by the sadness of it. I love, love, love poems like this one; its words are so simple, but it communicates something so true.

Exact – Rae Armantrout

Quick, before you die,
describe

the exact shade
of this hotel carpet.

What is the meaning
of the irregular, yellow

spheres, some
hollow,

gathered in patches
on this bedspread?

If you love me,
worship

the objects
I have caused

to represent me
in my absence.

*

Over and over
tiers

of houses spill
pleasantly

down that hillside.
It

might be possible
to count occurrences.

Outgoing – Matt Rasmussen

Our answering machine still played your message,
and on the day you died Dad asked me to replace it.

I was chosen to save us the shame of dead you
answering calls. Hello, I have just shot myself.

To leave a message for me, call hell. The clear cassette
lay inside the white machine like a tiny patient

being monitored or a miniature glass briefcase
protecting the scroll of lost voices. Everything barely

mattered and then no longer did. I pressed record
and laid my voice over yours, muting it forever

and even now. I’m sorry we are not here, I began.

Oh my goodness, brutal. Another incoming MFA at the uni I’ll be attending this fall just mentioned Rasmussen to me, so I had to look up everything I could find by him (of course). This was my favorite. Gut wrenching.

Rest. – Richard Jones

It’s so late I could cut my lights
and drive the next fifty miles
of empty interstate
by starlight,
flying along in a dream,
countryside alive with shapes and shadows,
but exit ramps lined
with eighteen wheelers
and truckers sleeping in their cabs
make me consider pulling into a rest stop
and closing my eyes. I’ve done it before,
parking next to a family sleeping in a Chevy,
mom and dad up front, three kids in the back,
the windows slightly misted by the sleepers’ breath.
But instead of resting, I’d smoke a cigarette,
play the radio low, and keep watch over
the wayfarers in the car next to me,
a strange paternal concern
and compassion for their well being
rising up inside me.
This was before
I had children of my own,
and had felt the sharp edge of love
and anxiety whenever I tiptoed
into darkened rooms of sleep
to study the small, peaceful faces
of my beloved darlings. Now,
the fatherly feelings are so strong
the snoring truckers are lucky
I’m not standing on the running board,
tapping on the window,
asking, Is everything okay?
But it is. Everything’s fine.
The trucks are all together, sleeping
on the gravel shoulders of exit ramps,
and the crowded rest stop I’m driving by
is a perfect oasis in the moonlight.
The way I see it, I’ve got a second wind
and on the radio an all-night country station.
Nothing for me to do on this road
but drive and give thanks:
I’ll be home by dawn.

Need to read and write again.