Fork with Two Tines Pushed Together

It's fast and cool as running water, the way we forget
the names of friends with whom we talked and talked
the long drives up and down the coast.

I say I love and I love and I love. However, the window
will not close. However, the hawk searches
for its nest after a storm. However, the discarded
nail longs to hide its nakedness inside the tire.

Somewhere in Cleveland or Tempe, a pillow
still smells like M_____'s hair.
In a bus station, a child is staring
at L____'s rabbit tattoo. I've bartered everything
to keep from doing my soul's paperwork.

Here is a partial list of artifacts:
mirror, belt, half-finished 1040 form (married, filing jointly), mateless walkie-talkie, two blonde eyelashes, set of acrylic paints with all the red and yellow used up, buck knife, dog collar, camping tent (sleeps two), slivers of cut-up credit cards, ashtray in the shape of a naked woman, pen with teeth marks, bottom half of two-piece bathing suit, pill bottles containing unfinished courses of antibiotics, bank statements with the account number blacked out, maps of London, maps of Dubuque, sweatshirts with the mascots of colleges I didn't attend, flash cards for Spanish verbs (querer, perder, olvidar), Canadian pocket change, fork with two tines pushed together.

Forgetfulness means to be full
of forgetting, like a glass

overflowing with cool water, though I'd always
thought of it as the empty pocket

where the hand finds
nothing: no keys, no ticket, no change.

One night, riding the train home from the city,
will I see a familiar face across from me? How many times
will I ask Is it you? before I realize
it's my own reflection in the window?

More by Nick Lantz

Ancient Theories

A horse hair falls into the water and grows into an eel.
     Even Aristotle believed that frogs
                                formed from mud,
that mice sprouted like seedlings in the damp hay.

     I used to believe the world spoke
                           in code. I lay awake
and tried to parse the flashes of the streetlight—
       obscured, revealed,
                    obscured by the wind-sprung tree.
Stranded with you at the Ferris wheel's apogee
       I learned the physics
                    of desire—fixed at the center,
it spins and goes nowhere.

       Pliny described eight-foot lobsters
                         sunning themselves
on the banks of the Ganges. The cuckoo devouring
       its foster mother. Bees alighting
                         on Plato's young lips.

In the Andes, a lake disappears overnight, sucked
       through cracks in the earth.
                         How can I explain
the sunlight stippling your face in the early morning?

Why not believe that the eye throws its own light,
       that seeing illuminates
                    the world?
                         On the moon,
astronaut David Scott drops a hammer and a falcon feather,
     and we learn nothing
                    we didn't already know.

Preface to the “Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion”

In the late spring of 1985,
we met in the weedy lot of the Orchid Pavilion Nursery
for a little ritual purification.

Everyone came, all the half-brothers and half-sisters,
the children not yet born,
and men so old they were young again.

We sat beside the aqueduct, and gold cans of beer
floated down to us
like the lines of poems.

The end of the twentieth century hung over
us like a cartoon anvil, but the breeze
that day was a knife so sharp

you couldn’t feel it cutting pieces off of you.
But then, when it’s sunny, no one remembers
how quickly a century turns over.

Our mothers always said that living and dying
ran on the same business model,
that one hand washed the other.

But how to tell that to the rat whose whiskers
will be bound into the brush
that inks these very lines about him?

No, there’s no use pretending the tears our mothers wept
over newborn babies and the dead
were even the same species of water.
 

Related Poems

Instead of Losing

Anyone, growing up in a space you hadn't used yet
would've done the same: bother the family's bickering
to head straight into the channel. My, those times
crackled near about us, from sickly melodrama
instead of losing, and the odd confusion...confusion.

I thought of it then, and in the mountains.
During the day we perforated the eponymous city limits
and then some. No one knew all about us
but some knew plenty. It was time to leave that town
for an empty drawer
into which they sailed. Some of the eleven thousand
virgins were getting queasy. I say, stop the ship!
No can do. Here come the bald arbiters
with their eyes on chains, just so, like glasses.
Heck, it's only a muskrat
that's seen better years, when things were medieval
and gold...

So you people in the front,
leave. You see them. And you understand it all.
It doesn't end, night's sorcery notwithstanding.
Would you have preferred to be a grownup in earlier times
than the child can contain or imagine?
Or is right now the answer—you know, the radio
we heard news on late at night,
our checkered fortunes so pretty.
Here's your ton of plumes, and your Red Seal Records.
The whole embrace.