Chekhov's Gun

Matt Rasmussen
Nothing ever absolutely has to happen. The gun 
doesn't have to be fired. When our hero sits 

on the edge of his bed contemplating the pistol 
on his nightstand, you have to believe he might 

not use it. Then the theatre is sunk in blackness.
The audience is a log waiting to be split open. The faint 

scuff of feet. Objects are picked up, shuffled away. 
Other things are put down. Based on the hushed sounds 

you guess: a bed, some walls, a dresser. You feel 
everything shift. You sense yourself being picked up, 

set down. A cone of light cracks overhead. The audience's 
eyes flicker toward you like droplets of water.

More by Matt Rasmussen

In Whoever's Hotel Room This Is

If it were up to me,
the bible would begin:

A man steps into a field...
I'd forgotten what was in

the background when you took 
the photo of me I wouldn't 

see until later. When I did, 
it was just a wall, and my smile 

was a mouthful of rocks.
A little after it was clicked off 

the T.V. screen's light
condensed down a drain.
 
Even when the television 
had become an aquarium 

full of black water
that last bright dot 

burned in my eye.
On the back of my photo

you wrote, This isn't you,
and you were right,

it no longer was.

A Horse Grazes in My Shadow

             after James Wright

Startled by my breath it bolts 
to the other end of the field. 

The horizon's brow rasps 
against a green cloud

which seems both
desperate and sincere.  

Into a dead tree
a flame of bird

drives its burning beak.
And somewhere out here

I have come to terms
with my brother's suicide. 

I wish the god of this place 
would put me in its mouth 

until I dissolve, until 
the field doesn't end

and I am broken open
like a shotgun, 

swabbed clean.

Elegy in X Parts [My foreshadow stretches]

X.

My foreshadow stretches
out in front of me.

We stand on the soles
of each other's feet.

I am a field
and there's a man

standing in the middle
of me saying,

God is the sky pinning
me to my body.

I am a man
and there is a field 

under me saying, 
A dead man makes

love to the earth
by just lying there.

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In Passing

On the Canadian side, we're standing far enough away
the Falls look like photography, the roar a radio.

In the real rain, so vertical it fuses with the air,
the boat below us is starting for the caves.

Everyone on deck is dressed in black, braced for weather
and crossing against the current of the river.

They seem lost in the gorge dimensions of the place,
then, in fog, in a moment, gone.

                                             In the Chekhov story,
the lovers live in a cloud, above the sheer witness of a valley.

They call it circumstance. They look up at the open wing
of the sky, or they look down into the future.

Death is a power like any other pull of the earth.
The people in the raingear with the cameras want to see it

from the inside, from behind, from the dark looking into the light.
They want to take its picture, give it size—

how much easier to get lost in the gradations of a large
and yellow leaf drifting its good-bye down one side of the gorge.

There is almost nothing that does not signal loneliness,
then loveliness, then something connecting all we will become.

All around us the luminous passage of the air, 
the flat, wet gold of the leaves. I will never love you

more than at this moment, here in October, 
the new rain rising slowly from the river.