Monday, June 4, 2012

Michael Kelleher

Follow the Pattern

The continents were drifting slowly apart. 
The woman with bleach-blond hair came looking 
For “an older gentleman.” We told her
He’d recently died, though it wasn’t so
Recently. He’d been dead a hundred years.
Hadn’t anyone bothered to tell her?
And, by the way, why was she at the door?
Alive, that is. She, of all people, eyes
Sagging under the weight of narcotic
Burdens that just get heavier with time.
Maybe I am missing something. Perhaps
Each and every one of us is dead and
She a ghost come to remind us that we
Have also succumbed and that our families,
Jobs, “responsibilities,” in other words.
Or better yet, “in other worlds,” drifting
Slowly apart, so that the meal we’ve cooked,
The one we’d hoped to eat this afternoon,
Is burning on the stove with no one there
To tend it. The smoke detector’s beeping
In the empty apartment, the first floor,
The one with the new granite countertops,
Outside of which the woman with the hair
Stands tapping at the door, calling “Teddy!”
That’s not even his name. It’s bastardized
From the Polish. “Ta-DE-usz,” she should say.
I know because I read the envelope
He left unopened in the vestibule.
It looked like a medical bill, unpaid,
Atop a stack of other unpaid bills,
As if Tadeusz had suddenly died,
And no one had been told. Or had he left?
Had he one day had enough? Had he said
To himself, I have had enough, and left,
Just like that, never to be seen again?
I was reading a Kit Robinson poem
This morning that contained the germ of this
One. The poem was called “Old Soft Shoe.” The book
Was called In the American Tree. Once
I heard a man ask Robert Creeley,
Did you put the “tree” in “poetry?” Wow.
There really are stupid questions, I thought.
But then Creeley, quite old just then, leaned in
And told a story of a tree he’d climbed
As a boy growing up in Acton, Mass.
Anyhow, In the American Tree 
Contains a poem called “Old Soft Shoe” and that
Poem contains a line that reads as follows:
The continent was drifting away from the man.
You may have noticed just then that the phrase
“The man,” which I kept in its proper place,
Added two additional syllables
To the ten syllable pattern I’d been
Dutifully following. Apologies.
An interesting image, though, isn’t it?
I can see a man, say Kit Robinson
Or Robert Creeley or even Teddy,
Standing at Columbia’s edge, just where
The little finger of Panama slips
Into South America. An earthquake?
A volcano? What? A meteorite?
The man watches North America drift
Away. This takes thousands of years. Millions,
Actually. The waters rise and the land
Seems to disappear beneath them. I can
Picture it so clearly, everything but
The passage of time, so invisible,
Which is to say it’s neither here nor there.
Shit. I just picked up Kit Robinson’s book
And realized it’s called Down and Back and that
“In the American Tree” is a poem
But not in fact the title poem. I’m left
With a quandary, then, as how to proceed.
Should I go back and rewrite this whole poem? 
Or just accept my mistake? Fuck it. I’m
Too lazy to go back. The tree stays put.


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