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This is Jacket 12, July 2000   |   # 12  Contents   |   Homepage   |   Catalog   |

Max Winter — two prose poems

As If I Knew

It was a good year, he says at the top of the new hotel, in the room always lit, in the room in which a television always plays ‘The Dahlia,’ in which a flower is the voice of a death, what voice it can muster in the crackly noplace;

it was a good year, he says, lying on his bed, hands outstretched, in one hand the model of a small city — where we may find an apothecary ever to grind in a pestle, an architect to build Valhalla, an optometrist to let us Through — and in the other the wrapper from a box of cigars given to a box of friends;

it was a good year, if you take out the bad, he says, as the snow picks up, as predicted from blue fields on the edges of weather; and the guest can see less, but he looks less as one meeting begets another meeting, as more water is drunk, as a series of figures keeps him from his train;

in which the living room is empty till the murderer enters, the sound is running behind, mouths move, the ending will not satisfy;

if you take out the bad, you are left with the following figures, he says;

where we pray beneath the bells, where we play some old records when the houses are empty;

if you take out the bad, having loosened his tie, having dropped his shoes, having picked up the phone;

it was a good year, he says from the top of the new hotel, to his absent, to the Wood of Suicides, to the Bellhop;

in which a flower is a piece of candy, in which a face is a piece of contrast; the film may stop as an object may stop, mid-sentence;

if you take out the bad parts, sure it was fine, maybe with changes; the glass he has held will fall on the ground;

in which brambles grow at the scene of the crime, in which everyone knows, all the time;

goodness gracious, the killer done struck again

What I Would Give Myself To Be

Roosevelt tells me loudly and clearly what I am doing wrong. A rat crawls across the stage. Out in the open city. The terms are absent or unnecessary. Someone is not telling me the truth. Terrible thing to lose your mind. Orchestral backup for the dropping of lead. What lead. How foolish could I have been. On the curtain is written the name of a typhoon. In quavery letters. She likes me, she doesn’t, she likes me, she doesn’t. Big Roosevelt head on a small Roosevelt body. Is this important. Do I wake. George Jones descends from the wings. Am I George Jones. George Jones is not singing but shooting. Pick a peck. A cough. Sleigh bells. It is a long way, over the tundra, dirty and indistinct dogs, where do they live the ones I love. Long hut. Ranch house. Shadows on blinds, on shades, too much snow to pick someone out. Is it snow or sleet. What’s funny. I say again. All my flies are zipped. In the house the cider. A crowd a-smother. Pipes a-knock. Two koala bears nuzzling my cuff. A kick and a kick and I cannot kick them off. I run through a thinning white. I sense that it is not mine. Which is why I cannot escape. Rumor. Levity.

Max Winter’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Paris Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, Boulevard, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, Iowa Review, and other publications. He is the Associate Editor of Fence.

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