Untitled [The more I go, the harder it becomes to return]

Jennifer Denrow

The more I go, the harder it becomes to return. To anywhere. There is no one at the ocean this morning. I walked by the campsites and smelled eggs and pancakes. And there were sweet Oregon cherries and watermelon. I wonder if I can go back—what purpose there would be in it—or in any other thing? There's something expensive both ways. Yesterday a woman told me to get a tide schedule and if the people refused to give it to me, I had to insist. She usually gets hers from the Hilton but I don't know where that is so I just imagine the schedule. There is a tide. I can tell that much about anything. What's before me, what isn't. How it got there is a mystery involving only itself—I have no part in that, none at all—my job remains in the thing as it is in the moment it's before me, having left all of its other places, having come this far to show up at all.

More by Jennifer Denrow

How the mind works still to be sure

You were the white field when you handed me a blank
sheet of paper and said you'd worked so hard
all day and this was the best field you could manage.
And when I didn't understand, you turned it over
and showed me how the field had bled through,
and then you took out your notebook and said how each
time you attempted to make something else, it turned out
to be the same field. You worried that everyone
you knew was becoming the field and you couldn't help
them because you were the one making them into fields
in the first place. It's not what you meant to happen.
You handed me a box of notebooks and left. I hung the field
all over the house. Now, when people come over, they think
they're lost and when I tell them they're not, they say they're
beginning to feel like the field and it's hard because they know
they shouldn't but they do and then they start to grow whiter
and whiter and then they disappear. With everyone turning
into fields, it's hard to know anything. With everyone turning
into fields, it's hard to be abstract. And since I'm mostly alone,
I just keep running my hand over the field, waiting.

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Untitled [Toward night]

Toward night, frail flurries of snow. Fingernails of willows scratching frost from the edges of the kitchen window where I watch the field beyond the fence where once corn was taller than a man can reach but now I gaze into the kitchen of the next farmhouse and watch the man with a bad leg hobble from sink to table to feed his mother with a spoon. I keep the lights off and study snow to augur from the flakes what fortune I may. The furnace does its duty and cars pass, swirls of flurry captured in fading prisms of red. If I stood on the road it would glow and crackle beneath my feet. The air would be muted, my own breath sounding as though it came from another body, a shadow leaning faintly toward me as though to whisper any comfort. Animals would unshelter themselves to stand waiting at the fence. Snow would settle everything. I would cup my hands, realizing I had become what it was I wanted to be. The body beside me would breathe on. The two of us.