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Katrina Vandenberg

By This Poet

2

Record

Late night July, Minnesota,
John asleep on the glassed-in porch,
Bob Dylan quiet on a cassette


you made from an album
I got rid of soon after
you died.  Years later,


I regret giving up
your two boxes of vinyl,
which I loved.  Surely


they were too awkward,
too easily broken
for people who loved music


the way we did.  But tonight
I’m in the mood for ghosts,
for sounds we hated: pop,


scratch, hiss, the occasional
skip.  The curtains balloon;
I’ve got a beer; I’m struck


by guilt, watching you
from a place ten years away,
kneeling and cleaning each


with a velvet brush before 
and after, tucking them in
their sleeves.  Understand,


I was still moving then.
The boxes were heavy.
If I had known



I would stop here
with a husband to help me
carry, and room—too late,


the college kids pick over
your black bones on Mass. Ave.,
we’ll meet again some day


on the avenue but still,
I want to hear it,
the needle hitting the end


of a side and playing silence
until the arm gives up,
pulls away.

Oarlock, Oar (Y, W, V, U, F)

still I hail from smokestacks girders closed

factories McLouth Steel’s poured slag turning the night

sky and black river orange the tight typeface of houses

in River Rouge Wyandotte the steel and auto tribes

tribe of the alphabet job shops the fathers who set

cutting tools on screw machines to make in multiples

in sixes packets of ear plugs the men made deaf shift

changes at three the line must never stop nothing could

not mothers who taught us the alphabet shapes

of oxen boats houses camels letters row on row

to prop us up row the ideas forward the spear

the snake the needle tooth Y W V U and F

all hailing from the same tribe the same hieroglyph father

oar or oarlock depending the alphabet not unlike

the world we lived in once we lived there the letters

trundled forth on their tracks boxcars shaking full

of gleaming two-doors leather seats body by Fisher

and yes I hail from unbeautiful artifice things

that made us late (barred tracks flashed lights opened

bridges) a tribe of shipbuilders iron ore taconite men

whose hands would not wash clean the machinery

and the machinery of the river the made thing

more important than we were the things themselves

not the idea of them I thought the letters books

a different place the books were not the way

out but in the letters embodying mirroring making what is

the oarlock what the oar still I hail from the Grosse Ile crew

team pulling on the river before school matching letter

jackets forgotten on the dock the catch release their blades