Tuesday, April 2, 2013

oh pioneers... (a poem).

            Massachusetts Winter

the first January in this place
was the worst.  i had been cold
before, i had been alone — but not for so many
days in a row.  if time does not “exist” then what
is this weight.  the difference between one snowflake
and ten, how it accumulates on the glass.
watching the wipers, back and forth on the windshield,
we sat unmoving, unable to exit 
the (relative) warmth of the car.
those pilgrims must’ve been fucking desperate, i said,
and you laughed.  a puff of breath.  whatever will 
left to speak was gone then.  breath turned 
to frost, like ash, it covered everything.

it was January when the wind started
blowing through the floorboards of my rented room
rattling the windowpanes.  under siege
sleep was getting hard despite the darkness:
constant.  shivering, the body refuses to surrender, 
afraid it will not wake again.  
so many days
in a row i drove to work in the dark and in the dark
drove home again.
the hours between rose and set in the window of an office
where i sat with pictures of people who died
and books in a dozen languages i do not speak. 
this was a job.  somebody has to do
the remembering, and i
was there.
living between the train tracks and the cemetery,
i remembered everything.  in wool socks on a mattress on the floor,
i heard the train cars rumble and squeal across the bridge
at night, whispering to my body,
i said, sleep
but there was no answer.

that was the year the exodus began. 
we met for one last drink, my friend and i,
the night before he moved to L.A.
it was such an obvious solution i was mad i hadn’t thought of it
first.  so i accused him of cheating but what 
he said, is there to win? and ordered another round. 
every January now, someone else leaves.  there is a difference

between one and three and ten.
nothing to win is not the same as nothing to lose
when the job is remembering.
the beers fizzled gold in the yellow bar light.
dark wood worn smooth.  a gust from the open door.
i thought of a pile of shoes in a black-and-white photo.