Whose Sleeves: American Tagasode

your shape is in the robe    worn or not
a roominess of you folds into its cloth

a sachet in the drawer from which the air
of the place was taken   fixed of    you’re here

the smell has temperature and space
the wider warmth that buttered popcorn tastes

and not you    it folds into a time’s clot
a sachet in a drawer   personage of its own still you

                                 *

I have to wear a bus to Rikers Island with
opaque tears up to my neck to get in       to see you

in your two inch thick glass robe I have to imagine
you naked under   to place my hand saying

I miss you against you where I can’t touch and love
has to break across insulating space       still warm

I have to stand my day in the folding up put away
given you as time   with you. I smell I need you on my clothes

                                 *

I smell gunfire folded in      to every turn
the city’s track laps into its hands on race

then files away not guilty    I smell the drawers
of the records they keep   folded away    from stands taken

away  distance doesn’t dissipate
the space between the bullet holes in you in me   folded

you are the map I have to sleep with in my pocket to be sure
I know how to get out of here

                                 *

your shape is in the robe    the sharp creases
of its fold when you wore it   blocked into

the counterpoint around you   that even
folded stood you out to me   that they couldn’t

see you   that one day   they would shoot
always folded into the robe you wore

gun or not   phone mistaken or empty handed   innocent
or not   there is this fold on itself  we sleep in

           in the fabric
           of this country’s culture

More by Ed Roberson

Here

There is nothing concrete to grasp in 
looking into the morning sky

The evidence of red-eye 
flights east a plane drawn line presents

is not a wheelbarrow solid enough 
dependency as day and night

carry   in coming and going
You don't see the poem

saying anything you can't see in it
White dashes of contrails' 

seemingly unmoving streak towards sunrise
disquiet the pale otherwise 

unpunctuated blue of dawn    
breaks it off                Here is that silence

On the Sparrow: No Blame

 When I worked in the steel mill
the ceiling crane dropped a bolt
at my feet          the way the cat
leaves his catch on the doorstep
for me        to step over it
a bolt thick as a sparrow:
the gift of it:              it didn't
easy as eggshell crack my skull.

Walking underneath the el's
same bridge superstructure
when i first arrived
in Chicago    this is what
I thought of          a falling bolt,
having to give up my cats
and not be mad if the whole 
thing falls off track aimed at me.

Buildings straight up from the street
tall slough off their "Falling Ice,"
stand-up sidewalk signs like it's nothing.
Buildings the sparrow's slam into,
fall from—    watched from the window desks—
mistaking light for the sky, land up here.
The cats probably have been
put to sleep by age by now. No blame.

Nolan,

                     The apparition of these faces in the crowd...)



riding the bullet train
the view passes by so fast
it is either a blur they say

or —like night lightning
strobes the raindrops
to a stop in midair

in that soundless moment—
maybe from the train you can glimpse
waiting there

one of those famous petals stopped still
in midair holding its wave to you
in place.        write us

and tell us if
this is so.

Related Poems

Elegy with Clothes

All of your giant beige bras
floated up into the atmosphere.
Blue eggs fell down the chimney;
the porch,
losing its screened-in mind,
caved in.
I mistake one living cell for another.
Hand on the mallet
of my life—
you come
detonating midair
with your own grief—
it’s not even mine.

I watch mice eat through everything,
their droppings
like beads of hashish.
The world begins as
a wolf tied to a flower.

Can you see how it happens
like that?
Something too violent
is attached to something
too living?

The Floral Apron

The woman wore a floral apron around her neck,
that woman from my mother’s village
with a sharp cleaver in her hand.
She said, “What shall we cook tonight?
Perhaps these six tiny squid
lined up so perfectly on the block?”

She wiped her hand on the apron,
pierced the blade into the first.
There was no resistance,
no blood, only cartilage
soft as a child’s nose. A last
iota of ink made us wince.

Suddenly, the aroma of ginger and scallion fogged our senses,
and we absolved her for that moment’s barbarism.
Then, she, an elder of the tribe,
without formal headdress, without elegance,
deigned to teach the younger
about the Asian plight.

And although we have traveled far
we would never forget that primal lesson
—on patience, courage, forbearance,
on how to love squid despite squid,
how to honor the village, the tribe,
that floral apron.

The Sadness of Clothes

When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back

as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid jacket
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.

You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.

You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out

and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms stubbornly
folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,

or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
He is gone and no one can tell us where.