The following poems are from our June/July 2019 issue, which you can buy here.
The Road Through You
You were sleeping when I left,
your breath fogging the mirrors of our cold room,
the ceiling collecting dew and frost,
the road through you
winding down to deer crossing,
to barns you played in as a child.
Outside, the same pine trees, manzanita,
the bush of bougainvillea with barely a blossom.
Inside, the limes on the table fade.
A cockatoo lifts its wings in a corner of the room.
You feel helpless as you hang up the phone.
On the other side of the street
a child hides her head in the crook of her arm,
her father lifting a bottle to his lips,
slurring his words over an empty plate.
You are surprised by the doorbell ringing.
After, you check your breasts for lumps.
The road through you
winds down to deer crossing,
to barns you played in as a child,
barns in which your brother first touched you,
where you stared into the sun,
listened to the cows in their stalls,
flies between your thighs, in your hair.
It is in the interest of the right question, what needs pinning down. Perhaps the inside of a moment at rest. Perhaps the part of the idea missing. Don’t be concerned about each dot, each dash, worry about their sound. The ice slips out to sea, slices a ship in half. Always prepare for the possibility no one survives. Wait for sunset, wait for the last one to enter. It will be dark, find your way by the light around its edges. Keep it in a box and tell no one. When it springs out, starts to dance, give it the floor until the applause. As bars close down for the night, rumors begin. Privately, other things could be said, things unlikely mentioned because a leak in the conversation shadows then leads.
Previously, there was only the dry leaves breaking under your feet. Now the place is alive with sound. That, and the sounds of clouds about to rain. There is no design, but there could be a plan. Retreat into a small village and place a guard inside every doorway. Grab onto the horse, the cop with the reins in his hands looking down at you looking up at him. Take the reins into your own hands and kick the beast. Under birds forming a perfect wave, new hope arises even as the others lock their doors, close their curtains, because anyone can see the air just not inside of it.
That the journey could not be done on two legs alone begs the question, can you feed the extra mouths, mend the hooves when stones lodge inside a soft foot? The ropes to cross the rivers all belong to you and you have no idea if the last strands will hold. Thankfully, the light remains around the edges and the dead are no where to be found. Your biggest fear is the light completely fading, your sense of direction the tips of your fingers inside a world loosing its sun yet still revolving around it. How this will happen, how you will keep your feet on the ground is anyone’s guess, and the money is not with you, the bet is on the strings wrapping around your legs, dragging you into space while your loved ones, close behind, have to guess which gas to breathe and when.
Through your skin, flowers bloom on a hillside scattered with the memories of which leaves fall and when as a kindness, for no reason, drifts out of reach in a gentle wind. Still, with no one to hold onto in the coldest of nights, tiny blossoms wait patiently for the smallest gesture, like a hand gently, tenderly, touching your cheek. When you finally rest, the softest chair on which to stretch your legs moves beside you. A rug settles inside the pasture. The paintings, at the base of each tree show various families in conversation. This is your family now, flowers and furniture spreading over you, a bouquet of many days and many nights lying alone beneath the stars.
You are only here until the roses bloom, until you notice a second skin folding like ribbon through your dreams of one last embrace, until you realize that you are, like the rest, not built to last. To accept this is to accept the past and all who perished along with your wish to give each child, who stayed to march beside you, a better life. And you did. At least better than those living inside the darkest thoughts of who will finally lie in order to hide the truth that no one made it to the end where leaves fall to open the sky, grow back in to close the sky once more.
You stand here delicately separating flesh from flowers on a bed of moss you cling to, like dry ice sticking to the hand of a child. When you turn to face the wind, you are the log floating next to the bridge you walk over each morning. Dirt and time take turns spreading through your leaves. As winter approaches, you feel your stems breaking. If it is up to you, you will hide inside the shadows that separate you from all who travelled under a cold sun, waiting for the earth to part, the water to spray from pools just beneath the surface you have come to depend upon.
It is not up to you who will survive, who will follow you past the meadows to the cliffs you are about to descend. Who will follow are those who listen to the right wind at the right time while hearing your voice when the wind dies down. And as the wind dies down, you become another source of knowledge. As a source of knowledge you study the paintings in the rooms of the caves in which you wonder. It will take time to understand the sunlight gathering the shadows filling in the drawings on each wall. As you look closely, between the cracks and the lines of paint, it seems like something between light and dark holds tight all of the shadows spreading like water as the hooves, pounding the rocks on the banks below, run to you now, knowing the way.
About Robert Lundquist
Robert Lundquist’s West Coast croon is soft, tremulous and caring. It is the voice of someone who has discovered a deep peace after decades haunted by trauma; who can now, finally, thaw out of a long paralysis and open up to old visions.
Introduction text by Heathcote Ruthven of New River Press. To buy AFTER MOZART (HEROIN ON 5TH STREET) by Robert Lundquist, visit New River Press.
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