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“Are you happy?” That’s a good place to start, or maybe,

“Do you think you’re happy?” with its more negative

tone. Sometimes you’re walking, sometimes falling. That’s part

of the problem too, but not all of the problem. Flowers out the window

or on the windowsill, and so someone brought flowers.

We spend a long time interested in which way the car would

best go in the driveway. Is that the beginning of an answer?

Some way to say who we are?

Well, it brings us up to now, at any rate, as the limitations

of structure, which is the way we need for it to be. Invent some muses

and invoke them, or save them for the yard, some animus

to get us going. And what was it Michael said yesterday? That

the committee to do all these good things has an agenda to do all these

other things as well, that we decide are less good in our estimation,

so then we have this difficulty. It just gets to you sometimes. We have

a table of red apples and a table of green apples, and someone asks you

about apples, but that’s too general, you think, as you’ve made

several distinctions to get to this place of two tables, two colors.

How can that be an answer to anything? Or we can play the forgetting game,

how, for twenty years, my mother would answer for her forgetfulness

by saying it was Old-Timer’s Disease, until she forgot that too.

On the television, a truck passes left to right, in stereo. Outside,

a garbage truck passes right to left. They intersect. And so the world continues

around two corners. The table gets turned over, with several people

standing around seemingly not sure of what comes next. Look at them

politely as you can, they’re beginners too. And they say the right question

is far more difficult to get to than the right answer. It sounds good,

anyway, in the way other people’s lives are a form of distance, something

you can look at, like landscape, until your own starts to look that way

as well. Looking back at the alternatives, we never had children

or we had more children. And what were their names? As the living room parts

into halls and ridges, where we spend the afternoon imagining a plant,

a filing cabinet or two . . . because some of these questions

you have with others, and some you have only with yourself.

from In A LandscapeFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2014
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of BOA Editions LTD.

Published in John Gallaher Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.