You can get there from here, though
there’s no going home.
Everywhere you go will be somewhere
you’ve never been. Try this:
head south on Mississippi 49, one—
by—one mile markers ticking off
another minute of your life. Follow this
to its natural conclusion—dead end
at the coast, the pier at Gulfport where
riggings of shrimp boats are loose stitches
in a sky threatening rain. Cross over
the man-made beach, 26 miles of sand
dumped on a mangrove swamp—buried
terrain of the past. Bring only
what you must carry—tome of memory
its random blank pages. On the dock
where you board the boat for Ship Island,
someone will take your picture:
the photograph—who you were—
will be waiting when you return
"Theories of Time and Space" from Native Guard: Poems by Natasha Trethewey. Copyright © 2006 by Natasha Trethewey. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Time’s going has ebbed the moorings
to the memories that make this city-kid
part farm-boy. Until a smell close enough to
the sweet-musk of horse tunes my ears back
to tree frogs blossoming after a country rain.
I’m back among snakes like slugs wedged
in ankle-high grass, back inside that small
eternity spent searching for soft ground, straining
not to spill the water-logged heft of a drowned
barn cat carried in the shallow scoop of a shovel.
And my brother, large on the stairs, crying.
Each shift in the winds of remembering renders me
immediate again, like ancient valleys reignited
by more lightning. If only I could settle on
the porch of waiting and listening,
near the big maple bent by children and heat,
just before the sweeping threat of summer
thunderstorms. We have our places for
loneliness—that loaded asking of the body.
my mother stands beside the kitchen window, her hands
no longer in constant motion. And my father
walks along the tired fence, watching horses
and clouds roll down against the dying light—
I know he wants to become one or the other.
I want to jar the tenderness of seasons,
to crawl deep into the moment. I’ve come
to write less fear into the boy running
through the half-dark. I’ve come for the boy.
From Revising the Storm (BOA Editions, 2014) by Geffrey Davis. Copyright © 2014 by Geffrey Davis. Used with permission of the author.
For the first time tonight,
as I put my wife to bed
I didn't have to shove her off me.
She turned away in her sleep.
I wondered what was wrong with my chest.
I felt it, and the collar bone
spiked up, and where she'd rest
her cheek were ribs.
Who wants to cuddle a skeleton?
My skeleton wandered from the house
and out onto the street.
He came, after much wandering, to the edge of a bay
where a long bridge headed out—
the kind that hangs itself with steel
and sways as if the wind could take
away its weight.
There were mountains in the distance—
triangles of cardboard—
or perhaps the mist was tricking his eyes.
The instant the mist made him doubtful,
it turned to rain.
The rain covered everything. The holes
in his face were so heavy
he wondered if the water was thickening—
if he was leaching into them.
He panicked. Perhaps he was gunked up
with that disgusting paste,
flesh, all over again.
If I were alive I'd have told him
I was nothing like what he was feeling—
that the rain felt more like
the shell of a crab
than the way I'd held him.
That it felt more like him.
But I wasn't alive—
I was the ghost in the bridge
willing the cars to join me,
telling them that death was not wind,
was not weight,
was not mist,
and certainly not the mountains—
that it was the breaking apart,
the replacement of who, when, how, and where
When my skeleton looked down
he was corrupted
in the femur by fracture,
something swelling within.
Out of him leaked pink moss.
Water took it away.
From The Final Voicemails. Copyright © 2018 by Max Ritvo. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions.
The sea called—
you faced the estuary,
you were drowned as the tide passed.—
I am glad of this—
at least you have escaped.
The heavy sea-mist stifles me.
I choke with each breath—
a curious peril, this—
the gods have invented
curious torture for us.
One of us, pierced in the flank,
dragged himself across the marsh,
he tore at the bay-roots,
lost hold on the crumbling bank—
Another crawled—too late—
for shelter under the cliffs.
I am glad the tide swept you out,
you of all this ghastly host
your white flesh covered with salt
as with myrrh and burnt iris.
We were hemmed in this place,
so few of us, so few of us to fight
their sure lances,
the straight thrust—effortless
with slight life of muscle and shoulder.
So straight—only we were left,
the four of us—somehow shut off.
And the marsh dragged one back,
and another perished under the cliff,
and the tide swept you out.
Your feet cut steel on the paths,
I followed for the strength
of life and grasp.
I have seen beautiful feet
but never beauty welded with strength.
I marvelled at your height.
You stood almost level
with the lance-bearers
and so slight.
And I wondered as you clasped
at the strength of your wrist
and the turn of your young fingers,
and the lift of your shorn locks,
and the bronze
of your sun-burnt neck.
All of this,
and the curious knee-cap,
fitted above the wrought greaves,
and the sharp muscles of your back
which the tunic could not cover—
no garment could deface.
I wonder if you knew how I watched,
how I crowded before the spearsmen—
but the gods wanted you,
the gods wanted you back.
This poem is in the public domain.
I forgave myself for having had a youth. —Thom Gunn At the Fashion Square mall, back of Waldenbooks, I saw my younger self haunting the magazine rack. Ripping out pages of Blueboy, tucking them in a Trapper Keeper. Turn back. His eyes met mine, animal and brittle, a form of gratitude that a man kept his stare. Any man. I half-smiled some admission, and though he couldn’t see it coming, I excused him his acid jeans; two Swatch watches, two guards. He, I, must have been nineteen: sex was “safer” then— scribbles on the mall men’s room stall; malaise of saxophone and PSAs. How did I even learn how to live in 1991? Landlocked, cock-blocked, Spanish moss festering. I forgive him.
Copyright © 2018 by Randall Mann. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 1, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.