Dream Field, Wednesday Hill Road
—for Charles Simic
This landscape resembles nothing I've ever seen.
There is no snow, no heat, no stone wall held
in silence or tree shadow. We are told
we must move out, take what we can carry,
close the house. At night, searchlights appear
anchored on the field. Guiding someone in? Or out?
The only question answered is how much can go
in one backpack: aspirin, a dictionary, clean red socks,
printer paper and a child's crayons, silver money.
Now the house is sealed with packing tape.
Dear hearts, there is no way to reach you now, in Florida,
Colorado, the Pacific Coast, no way, no matter where
you are. We are never given enough time to call.
We form lines in the field. Eventually, under searchlights
throwing blue shards into the sky, everyone walks away.
Black ice and a slip-and-fall, the kind
that shoots lightning directly into the brain.
The trick to falling, I learned once,
is don't try not to fall. Failing that, try ice
or frozen peas. And Irish in a glass,
sipped slowly, breathing as deeply
as your ribs will allow, carefully separating
breathing from swallowing, especially if alone.
I used the spearmint rose salve
from the Indian museum; ten hours later,
only a tiny broken vein appears, no bigger
than a thumbprint, a small bluish mottle,
not as bad as it might have been, almost gone.
In a day or two, the headache backs away as well.
The Indians, Grandmother often said, they knew
some shit, although not, as it turns out, enough.
He came into the room already famous,
as young as we were and just as full of it
or so he would have us believe.
Because of the light in him,
tender bravado, worn-thin jeans
that resembled our own, the words
that sounded nearly, almost, not quite
like ours sometimes did, someday might,
we swooned and swore to believe him
and believe him still and will and goddamn will.
He was not 71. He cannot have been 71
when it ended, first, because it cannot
have ended and second because he cannot
have been 71, a grandfather number,
too close to home.
ancient one, an over-and-done,
He was, at most, in that bug-bodied,
its faded WPA mural on one wall,
some years less than thirty, his deep, hurt eyes
glinting with flashes of joy, pain and boredom,
words on the page “every damn day,” he said—
he insisted, we heard “insistence”—
pages peopled with sorrow and absence,
love and loveliness, which are not the same,
and the blurt of inadvertent laughter
that surprises and even sometimes heals
but more often not,
which was the lesson yet to be learned.
One of the ones we aspired to be,
one of the voices to chase, mimic, drink
up and drink to. So it cannot have ended.
Our typewriters clacked for days after he left,
insisting. Even now he stands behind me at my desk
and whispers, “Yeah, OK, so fuck it. 71. It happens.”
Larkin Warren lives in northern NH. She has collaborated on six-and-a-half memoirs,
is writing one of her own, and her poetry's been published in Mississpipi Review, Ohio Review, Yankee magazine, Slow Motion Review (NYU), Quarterly West and others, She is currently owned by a mini Aussie shepherd rescued from a NYC kill shelter. Her poetry chapbook, Old Sheets, was published by Alice James books (Farmington, Maine) in the previous century.
Her essays have appeared in New York Times magazine, NYTimes op-ed page, AARP magazine, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Glamour, Salon, and others.