It hasn’t been a hard day, but the clouds are taking their retreat.
I want to write for them a way to cultivate new shape.
Which means – I want to write for you more than an apology
for my Midwestern posture, how uselessly polite I can be
before rain falls and then, ankle-deep in a ditch of mud,
cigarette boxes, chocolate donut wrappers – mud and maybe
roadside crop slightly less hostile – shrug my shoulders
and smile, an archaic gesture. These things just happen.
What can be done? You already know ways to read
expansiveness above you like the barn swallow I strengthen
to be, my afternoons spent swooping, learning these brutal
arcs. If we begin again, we’ll begin like this: there is a man
outside the only bar in town with a good jukebox
and better brandy. Like the rest of us, when he claps his hands
against his jeans, he raises dust of more than a week’s worth
of work. He mumbles to himself about rain and useless crops,
doesn’t roar, with his face upturned, to be given something
good – but a scab across the bridge of his thin nose suggests
he doesn’t suffer yet from simple or phosphorescent ease.
Inside, I’m lonely, but the bartender thinks I’m drunk.
He has good reason. I take a sip of ice water and what is left
of whiskey, close my eyes, practice breath like I’m blowing out
birthday candles. Really, I’m just trying to make those
cumulus rearrange, waltz – cloud, be a ballerina balanced
on the back of a well-trained bear. Be a bouquet of rusted nails
pulled from the old fence of a family cemetery no one knows
the last descendent of. Be a queen walking down an aisle of lace.
Be the bolt of satin made into the gown or be the lace or the hands
that make new fabric. Be newness and something we will
have to forage better language for but until then, can only point,
shape our mouths to show an understanding. There is a parable here,
though I’m having a hard time recognizing the difference between
the tones I always wanted my voice to inhabit and my inability
to whistle. Are you still here with me? Begin again: hello.
When I am most sad, I pull weeds from the garden, gather
the clay-soft soil from their roots, build small castles as if seaside
and happy. Soon enough, startlingly, I am close.
Christine Holm is a poet living and working in Wisconsin. She is a recent resident of Wormfarm Institute.