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Monday, October 12, 2009

Dean Young

Scarecrow on Fire

We all think about suddenly disappearing.
The train tracks lead there, into the woods.
Even in the financial district: wooden doors
in alleyways. First I want to put something small
into your hand, a button or river stone or
key to I don’t know what. I don’t
have that house anymore across from the graveyard
and its black angel. What counts as a proper
goodbye? My last winter in Iowa there was always
a ladybug or two in the kitchen for cheer
even when it was ten below. We all feel
suspended over a drop into nothingness.
Once you get close enough, you see what
one is stitching is a human heart. Another
is vomiting wings. Hell, even now I love life.
Whenever you put your feet on the floor
in the morning, whatever the nightmare,
it’s a miracle or fantastic illusion:
the solidity of the boards, the steadiness
coming into the legs. Where did we get
the idea when we were kids to rub dirt
into the wound or was that just Pennsylvania?
Maybe poems are made of breath, the way water,
cajoled to boil, says, This is my soul, freed.

Off the Hook Ode

Even if the wine glass can’t hold wine,
it looks in one piece. Such satisfaction
when we think we can fix something.
No need to make a long list of fuck-ups
and regrets, it’ll look like everyone else’s.
It’s not like there’s a shortage of explanations.
By the fourth day, the roses in the vase
are experts at falling apart but they were
experts before while they were still connected
to the dirt. So were the beetles. Maybe
only details matter: what the flames felt like
before you knew they were flames, bits
of the porous world, the words that made up
your intimate code. How have we gotten so snarled?
Sometimes thunder promises rain but it’s wrong
and birds fly the wrong direction so why
should you worry you’re turning into frost
in summer? Even the wind contradicts itself
and the one who thinks he has the most to say
is the one doing most of the not-talking
which isn’t necessarily listening while
the other goes on in half-asleep defiance
so he gets the gist like brushing fingertips
on a monument conveys great bulk and weight
but look at it: the angel seems just alighted
to scourge twilight from the mind, let the body
fill with stone. Nothing can be fixed.

Dean Young
from American Poetry Review
June/July 2009

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