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Forrest Gander

Knife on a Plate

If there is any relief from it, any slippage — though wait
while the phalanx of children streaks across the basketball court, bending
to pick up an eraser at the foul line, and rushes back
to the squealing, eruptive start.
                                                                        Colorful wicks
flickering in the afternoon. My boy
is on fire all summer and losing
his extravagant high voice.
Earth’s mantle scatters beneath him.
                                Look where he stands casually leashed
to the greyhound beside the hydrant, a royalty
of self-absorption, yanking the dog before she’s through,
                          yanking her into the literal present, an uplift
between intention and accomodation,
where hours have yet to be rendered
into days into weeks into months with names
like January and February scrawled into a Daytimer,
into circumscribed feelings.
                                                The fact of the tag turned-out
from the neck of his pajamas attaches itself to me like                                                                                                 a burr. The audacious
originality of the ordinary
sometimes suggests an opening,
and to enter is to hear the measure
not of nostalgia but nearness — that fetching
lack of doubt and perspective, a world
                                                zoomed-in close
enough to count black ants
under dog-stunted spirea.
capillaries reknot in the eyes, before the dishrag
hanging from a ring on the cabinet door
under the sink is too badly sullied,
the brightest dark and the darkest dark
open huge their mouths. There is a disturbance like a kiss
through which cognition disappears.
As always, I am sitting in this silent room alone,
or I am reading to my son, propped against the headboard.
A donkey finds a magic pebble. The referents
                      for the story’s terms
are a function of the story itself,
and the boy knows there is no one world
we approach by approximations.
                Only choose and choose and choose
cracks over us. I jolt awake —
but no time has passed: I am turning the page
                                                with one hand. I am
fingering the boy’s unwashed hair.

Forrest Gander photo

Forrest Gander’s most recent books are Deeds of Utmost Kindness (Wesleyan, 1994) and Science and Steepleflower (New Directions, forthcoming May 1998). He edited and translated poems for the bilingual anthology Mouth to Mouth: Poems by 12 Contemporary Mexican Women. He lives with poet C.D.Wright on a small orchard outside of Providence in Rhode Island.

Forrest Gander’s author notes page gives more recent information.
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