Andrew Nance
Six Poems

 

Right of Frost

 

 

Then have I

Nothing to show

But Calvary –

—Emily Dickinson

 

 

Distance deformed my more noble character traits.

Chief among them: the way I hog-tied the bread

at that over-priced buffet. Forgive me these injuries

I have caused us.

 

                      Darkling, it was but purity at stake—

a telethon set to grant some trace element of grace.

But, as Baptists say, every little thing would have,

in the end, been okay, but for need.

 

                                                       But for

the credence I gave last days turning into formers

I had thought final—though the word coursed

through my lungs, warped a song meant to congeal—

and my empty mouth forgoes mercury for what?

 

A present exactitude? The sign set to assure me

closed in on itself—poppy-lidded, wilted—its color

defined, as in all the best symbols, by moxie.

 

Darkling, I am tired of this armor—I’ll bury it

in the field you have assigned me at risk of being

its anniversary—a man oft reduced to apparatus.

 
     
     
     
  ____________________  
 

 

 
     
     
 

Some Other Master

 

 

Honesty made me a heuristic. Trying it on

like a mitre—my mitigated displays of candor—

the secrets eddied into backstrokes

and the ways out were through those little joints

in memory: one part reclamation

and one part ironic vapors.

 

                                         That’s when

the pedestal set up by the day’s work spoiled—

my confidence in time blinding

my chance of belonging to it—as the wares

I’d come to rid myself of were dangled, half-

strangled, from the ceiling fan.

 

                                              Is there no

better way out but through this trench?

Is there no other love than the one that keeps me

bent towards the shade the shadows

grow? There’s always a go for it or fuck it—

refrains on cancer—but, either way, I’ve still

                                            missed it.

 
     
     
     
  ____________________  
 

 

 
     
     
 

The Right to Insolvency

 

 

Nature is a societal category.

—Georg Lukács

 

 

In stark contrast to the brevity set forth by careening

small talk—our State of Reason—and the litmus turning pink

in the shadow of a monoxide, we used to call this gravity

in the old days, now awake, but not without any particular

sense of tragedy to mark the calendar. Those were

the times, we’ll keep on posturing, when the domiciles

shone on us a steady light all too comforting to be

exacting—still, by degrees, a timely resort to the abstraction

of youth.

 

                That we were the off-season periphery to

a parlance of others was unchanging even as the fact went

foggy—celestial images being taken before the fact

and the future, though of some succinct comfort, was

altogether too quiet at the party. Where, we may now ask, was

our regenerative need? Still clingy, but out for some time

under the tautological arabesque cast forth by neon

and smoke’s iridescent sleeve, we nonetheless agreed

that the time used to craft such an argument was better

left delayed until its indefinite future.

 

                                                       A definite series

of: we, etc. And what would, at the outset, be called

happenstance also would become petty genealogy: who is

the boy that is he, etc.?—to some, a camaraderie, while for others

it was simply that aloof obscenity of power taking hold

of coterie—Starbuck lanced by the lie of patent sophistry.

 
     
     
     
  ____________________  
 

 

 
     
     
 

Orrery

 

 

for Alex Walton

 

 

We arranged the flowers cut at stem to stand—our

Inventory—an “an” that we used to call discounted servicing

Is now a tripod set at perpendicular to our

Overcast sun. And so we’ve arrayed, and our work

Has become clever: a hole in the planetarium’s

Rotund backside casts air out into sunlit matter.

 

The whole of heaven is a camera obscura set up

To reflect: snow wreathing our feet as we complete

Our first half-marathon at first light. “The air tonight

Is clumsy,” we’ll say, stirred, off-handedly, and

All the bespectacled Princes bow as the wine

Wets their little palettes. They speak, they claim that

The world will resurface through a job well done—

Like this one: the planetarium pointed at their

Hyperbolic surfaces—carbon arranged into harbors

And boats realigned into the shadows clouds cast.

 

Life here is a stingy one-act, yes. It counts back

From the distant future—one of many—wherein

Inmates bring us all hors d’oeuvres inside our own

Glass menageries: what war we’ll end up calling

Battle—or later, simply: diplomacy. And though we

Are mostly moneyed, we unilaterally agree: it was

The work that was too knowing, too delimiting

Of that inner-life we’d spent all of our lives trying

To conceal from a universal learning we call lending.

 
     
     
     
  ____________________  
 

 

 
     
     
 

The Audience to a Life

 

 

Caught again in the prism both desired, though

suspended, and distant, love is wrested

from those ordinary days both faultlessly cold

and seemingly leftover. The hotline, now on hold,

for handsome affection we never learned

to warn ourselves against—a profitable mistake

leaning into our chests as we fake a fall

into the backseat of a car—is a cool countenance

that announces its own prize and pries us

back from longing.

 

                            So that when we say

that the worst is over from inside its account—

dusk siphoning detriment off as rain breaks

snow open into little levees—the way back appears

only through the citation of love and not,

as we hoped, in the form of affections.

The ink-smeared newspaper discounts the frost

as unseasonable at the same time that


it parades a photograph of the President

in Buffalo, and we still hear ourselves say that

we are ascending a historical seclusion—

winter reining in while it expands in other

parts of the country. All the same, after all,

is the likelihood with which we count

on the love to outlast itself even as the season

stalls, and we find it more useful to learn

                                our own lives by heart.

 
     
     
     
  ____________________  
 

 

 
     
     
 

Remembrance of Things to Come

 

 

The blue elixir hit my tongue as a lens flare. The film sped up

as the audio slowed down. What appeared as a surface

also moved under touch like an animal once asleep and then

recoiling, posturing, ready to attack. You said you’ll remember

me as if to say you had already forgotten what I looked like,

what I’d lived, where I might’ve been after. The firing squad

squinted as the sun stared back into their eyes. This, yes, but

also the very instant—the last, but also one in a series which

would equal its beginning.

 

                                       A private death of individually

private things—from looks and thoughts to small agonies,

hopeful moments wherein the reach of larger commodities

would not move me out into that second world but rather

leave me laced to its very fissure—a beaded elsewhere, a little

wisp of smoke signaling the causality behind what makes

the present stand upright. And today is, in retrospect,

yesterday with all its peculiar outfits: from that green, idle

fog to the lavender sleeve that once swung around my neck.

But the afterwards that congeals on the lens tries to settle up

a debt that cannot be cancelled—and along with insolvency

comes the emptiness of liberation—so that wisdom now

feels foolishly derived from an exasperated separation of time

with registers in weather, deflagrated fog filing shade into

a kind of “surreptitious friendship,” and the water that both

rises and falls simultaneously.

 

                                            The recalcitrant facts tame

such differences: my pissed-in pants were cut away, my hair

tossed back, my nose upturned, my mechanism leveed

off its hinge into an unspeakable waste between memory’s

dank epistemologies and the sun made opaque by cloud

cover, snow, and the branches that irrigate the sky. And there

of course remained the lightness implicit to an infinitive

wherein, not exactly freed from life, nor exactly unrequited

adds up to what? A “death outside of him” or perhaps an

about face in its interrogative: “I am alive. No, you are dead.”

 
 



____________________

 
 

Andrew Nance’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Better, Colorado Review, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Narrative, Powder Keg, Prelude, The Literary Review, The Volta, The Winter Anthology, and elsewhere. He is the editor of Company. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Andrew currently lives in Athens, Georgia, where he is a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia. Find him at www.andrewnance.org