Where the Feeling Deserts Us
- I wake somewhere on the outskirts of Portland.
- The crickets are singing. The train is refusing
- to breathe. Off in the distance a truck gears down
- on a service road bordered in trees. The river
- beside me, babbling kind. Headache. Earache.
- All I can see of the field dissolves in a stale white blanket
- of moon. Nothing moves. Even the cold machinery
- seems to be riding itself in a dream.
- Sliding away from the steel retainer walls.
- Boxcars stalled on the next four strings. The train
- is my shepherd. I finger a dead leaf. Star-lights dance
- in the field beyond my cage. We are never returning
- to the field itself, only the mystery hidden inside.
- Night after night in the speed of your leaving.
- Soft of your veined hands tracing my thigh.
- The flavor of dust where the feeling deserts us.
- Maybe the blonde heads of needlegrass swaying.
- Bodies of cows in the next field over. I pull up the blanket
- to cover my bare arms. Cool air filled
- with the pressures of falling dew. This is the best
- I can give for a reason — the metal accepts you,
- whoever you are. The train you are riding will only
- go forward. The straight line is perfectly clear.
Holes in the Mountain
- Even the dead rats in the alleys of Oxford,
- head-crushed and tossed in a trashbag,
- left to fester behind the fence, are waiting
- for crows to divide them, to carry their bodies
- away. And if not crows, or the street pigeons
- picking a leg-bone, then the broom
- of a street-sweeper keeping a rhythm
- to one of the tunes in his head. Or the wind
- as it funnels the dust in a mini-tornado
- above him. Because it isn’t enough
- to say god is the speed of the wheel
- that turns the sky, or that god is the distance
- between two trains, hurtling at the same speed
- toward you. It doesn’t matter what stories we use
- to explain these impossible themes —
- they will always turn fake or explode
- in our faces. On Mount St. Helens
- the fires went into the roots of the oldest pines,
- smoldered and stayed in the coals for a month
- before burning the farms on the opposite side
- of the mountain. They found this out later,
- tracking a mouse through a network
- of intricate caves. We used to have ways
- of explaining our failures. Now all we do
- is erase them by spreading the veils of blame
- so thin. The scars on our hands are only around
- to remind us: don’t grow old in yourself,
- don’t get lost in this scrimmage. Because even
- death, in its marble skies and free-wheeling borders
- is an art of remembering everything over.
- And although the soul is a joke we tell
- to the part of ourselves we can touch,
- it’s only because the soul is a fire, and laughs
- at our sorrow, and has already survived us.
Kai Carlson-Wee’s first poetry collection, RAIL, is forthcoming from BOA Editions. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, he lives in San Francisco and is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.
Share / Tools