On 20th between Madison and Ferry
a line of municipal maples binds the community
to an orderly, serviceable beauty. Platforms
from which our sparrows and starlings
might decorate our domestic sedans,
perhaps these trees serve most to stimulate
the car wash economy. Today, they remind me:
unsatisfied with workaday species, my parents
nailed oranges to a post to attract the exotic Oriole.
When the birds arrived, I wondered if they’d flown
all the way from Baltimore, which in turn
evoked a hotel, gables lined
with black and tangerine, posh clientele
spackled by the vagaries of Maryland living.
By nine I could sigh, climb our single
red maple, which I imagined a national landmark.
Child of movies, I could see the tree even at night
as a kind of beacon, a singularity. White
sheen on the leaves’ pitchy gloss, bodily.
And I too would learn to feel glazed
as any creature accumulating light
cast from stars, hidden in a federation
of equivalent times, distant trains
carrying sugar, coal, whole families beyond
deserts, imposing ranges, shimmering coastlines
said to define the spirit of a people.
Far from the station, the pinpoint aurora,
a line of municipal maples bears its charge.
Sam Says Everything
’s weird if you stare at it and I’m staring
at the travel graph of the Voyager craft—
the one that sailed past all our planets
taking the pictures I’ve framed of Jupiter’s
big red eye, ice geysers on Enceladus
and the spooky blue of Neptune.
A while back I emailed the childhood friend
who became a past life regressionist.
She told me life began on a distant moon
which made life seem kind of middling, to me—
side-shelved and orbiting around
whatever the real real thing might be.
One time late at night on a golf course
we kissed and she said it wasn’t right.
I still wonder specifically why.
She replied to say a good way to go insane
is to constantly ask what’s wrong with yourself
and expect someone to answer.
She also said I thought you died
and all week I wondered if it might be true.
I’ve heard reality’s a function
of expectation, so my problem
stems from my prospect: I seem to be
clinging to the idea of a satellite
way out in the frozen night
beeping news from the motherland.
Like my own aging mother
sending clippings about potato blight,
poisonous spiders, New
Zealand’s musical theater scene,
and the township’s announcement
that the golf course has been sold
to an investment group out of Manitoba.
Just tell me: was it the mosquitos?
Were my lips dry or ineffective in some way?
I was just saying hello.
but I guess I would like to know…
after Sam Lipsyte