Right of Frost
Then have I
Nothing to show
But Calvary –
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.
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.
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
The Right to Insolvency
Nature is a societal category.
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
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.
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