was about the taste of buckshot in baked swan.
I wanted to remember more, but couldn’t.
Someone suggested bloodletting. Someone else
suggested several hours of ghost talk. I suggested
nothing. Picture this. Picture her with a rifle
posed beside a Buick. Picture her taking someone’s
stray blast in the chest while quail hunting in 1942.
Picture how she dressed her wounds and drove
herself over hours of knocking Idaho backroads
to the nearest doctor’s house. There was a war on,
after all. (Though when isn’t there a war on?)
Every act amounted to a sacrifice. Tell me, Mary,
which of my actions counts as preparation for life
during wartime. Yes, the inconsistent stretches
and push-ups. Yes, the quiet watching in the night.
No, the amount of toilet paper I use each week.
No, all my fawning over music. Not even Napalm Death,
Machine Gun Etiquette, or “Life During Wartime.”
No, the writing of poems. When Creeley called Koch
lightweight—or rather when I came across this
while reading someone’s gloss on the poetry wars—
it sounded like Creeley believed his poems
could chop wood, start fires, inflict wounds.
In poetry the goal is always to inflict wounds.
So say the vagaries of some strange muse. I do
terrible things and claim I’m only following orders.
Picture these stanzas leavened with dead elephants.
Picture the mad man setting fire to the tree.
Picture yourself. Picture this misfortune.
To be alive in words other than your own.
Copyright © 2020 Charlie Clark
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.