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Robert VanderMolen

Four poems

A Party / Trails / Evenings & Mornings / A Mist

A Party

The snow falling was easy, flour-like,
As from a colander.
I was in my rowboat
Unhooking a fish in a dream
When the pike began emitting
Human sounds of distress

In the kitchen I ate a sausage and three large shrimp.
From the window above the sink, peering out,
Cars parked in a cresting twilight
Beyond shrub.
I recalled the diorama, in the old
Natural history museum, of Indians wearing wolf pelts
Sneaking through grasses and snow

The first time I saw a woman’s genitals, said Nick,
Who had sidled up, I didn’t know what I was looking at.
The head, legs and chest had been cropped.
An animal perhaps from some odd island―
When the man in the magazine store chased us out

One is free from doubt only for a spell, my father said.
On a sunny morning, a radio playing downstairs,
Standing in the bath, finding an abscess
On what had been pleasant skin.
You’re my nigger, said one white guy
To another. Later there was tension
Between two of the wives.
Outside, in an adjacent field, under a streetlamp,
Weightless winter heads of weeds rolled back and forth
Like seaweed in an aquarium


It’s relaxing here, the sense of here,
Except for train tracks
Hidden over the rise―
The freight that stumbles
Through before morning,
Like some misjudgment
From the evening before,
Something that rises up
Out of the murk of sleep and is true

Wedges and edges of snow
Half-thawed, then frozen again

It was tough to walk
With equilibrium, even if one
Had a cane or shepherd’s crook ―
But I didn’t comment

While sipping coffee, Corinne continued,
The sun was glittering through pine
And cedar, it looked warmer ―
It occurred to me, one of those thoughts
That slide into notice, like hunger ―
You’ll find this amusing, but I realized
I was never going to be a film director.
When I was with community theatre
I always figured it a possibility.
Like Sean said, when a member
Of the city commission,
No one goes into politics
Without a thought of becoming president:
Circumstances and chance,
Changing times, being able to look
Voters in the eye. And lie. I added that,
She said. We paused to glance
Into the black water of the stream


These afflicted shadows in the barn―
Sounds sucked underground, one imagines.
She peered at me pointedly

But I was hoping the barn was still sturdy
Though portions were missing.
A breeze was beginning to pick
Through the wind-break outside

In battered weeds and drying snow
The carcass of a deer hit by a car
On 3 Mile Road.
Occasional brick and pipe rearing up

A large dimple of water in the pond

Sean, my ex, wasn’t mean
Just thoughtless―you’ve no doubt
Heard this before. He grew self-absorbed,
Stopped heeding everyday events.
Inevitably he turned grayish
(or dim, I suppose), until it was difficult
To spot him in a room. I bought him
Red shirts. Changed the carpet.
But his voice dwindled
Until I had to move closer.
A day arrived when I didn’t want
To drive home, regardless of the hour
Everything had become too solemn―
Like that barn with its cow stalls
And drains. Those gigantic wooden
Supports. It wasn’t about fame or money,
Though I had some with modeling
(all of it fleeting, as it turned out).
The colors changed, like on a ball field
When the lights snap on or maybe
It was just the crowd stirring,
Then envision the reverse, dusk
On a shelf of ice up north past the bridge.
One does miss it for a time.
But I’m not fragile. It took me a while
To reorganize. I puttered about
Until I stumbled upon mosaics―


Corinne was rather tall. She was beaming now.
Her dark hair whipping back and forth
Along with red-wing blackbirds

Evenings & Mornings

There was something about the woman in the movie
As she sat in bed staring at the Smith & Wesson,
Allowing the sheet to slip to her waist. It was so
Unexpected. I was the guy with the gun
Making apologies I wouldn’t have made before


The sun remaining dry, non-partisan
Across now the planks of September―
How difficult to piece one observation
Into the next without hyperbole or minor lie

Sometimes the lake has a bedroom smell.
No doubt, my neighbor replies, from our summer flooding…
Ropes frayed and green, while boats are tame
Awaiting storage―suddenly all the hidden birds
Commence their chirping and whining.
The water a Prussian blue.

A couple of crickets under the grille
The only thing covered in tension is you

A Mist

But my fever made me long
For New Jersey. I told my husband
I liked it here, but I didn’t want to die
In Michigan. Does that seem so odd?
You lie in bed wishing one of the dominoes
Had fallen in a different direction. You look at your body―
When you need affection life seems so meager

Thank you for meeting me here.
I know I’m not like I once was, but who is.
I favor men with some meat on them.
It’s pleasant to be warm like this.
I’m not accustomed to being carefree

The woods so dark in winter behind the house

There are times I feel like I’m looking in,
My face against the glass of the slider
Like a woodchuck’s, my skin all covered in bristly hair―
I’d prefer alternatives
A smallish career in the arts, let’s say. A plan of some sort.
Even the day the oven caught fire
Everyone seemed to have somewhere else to go…

Robert VanderMolen

Robert VanderMolen

Robert VanderMolen has been publishing poetry since the mid-1960s. Author of nine collections and two chapbooks of verse, his most recent book is Water (Michigan State University Press, 2009). In the past few years his work has appeared in such periodicals as London Review of Books, Grand Street, Parnassus, Poetry, Epoch, Michigan Quarterly Review, Bald Ego and Saint Ann’s Review. He lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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