A landscape of some expanse, perfectly flat,
stretched out, flowerless, no rain or sun,
hard beige dirt going on and on
until it smacks into slate sky,
windless, treeless, no extremes,
cold and heat in perfect deadlock,
rocky, a little treacherous at first
but familiar in time, the fissures,
and always, always some slight measure
of light. Uncanny, how easy for me
to get here, how easy for me to stay
a long time and never want to leave,
how easy to block the memory of mountains
and the rush that mountains afford,
to hoard love as though it were grain
and me an impregnable silo,
how easy to believe myself relieved
of the river, no water here
and no container to pour it in,
no wildlife, no humankind, just me
rolling around in the folds of my own head.
I am alive because I am not dead.
Hot slap-happy grass-stained knee-skinned no-wind kind of night.
Greg and Robert James and Denise leaping,
lunging with grunts and mason jars in the dark
in Mr. and Mrs. Childress’s wild backyard.
Jenny and me, weeds half up to our knees, chasing the dog
into and back out of the porch light,
mosquitoes trumpeting in my ear—
Greg’s got one. Denise another.
They run to the fence’s edge and compare. Little conspirators.
See, me and Jenny
we don’t need a jar or a hand,
just our eyes. They’re just like little stars,
little flashlights lighting the way
for all the other bugs. They flare, disappear,
just like when Jenny smiles then doesn’t
at a dumb joke. Her teeth are bright white
and the way she sometimes sparkles in my direction,
I know for a fact
the block is way too dull to hold her back.
Letter to Ferris from Decatur
Good Jim: A rare fog this a.m. The backlit trees guard their secrets.
Single leaves dangle from branches like Christmas ornaments.
Our friend Hopkins had it right—the world is charged. I don’t want
to write another word about not being able to write. Toledo
treats you well, I trust. Is life still full? I’m still doing the work
I was meant to do, still brushing the scales from my students’ eyes.
Egg is to yolk as work is to disappointment. When I take care
to remember that, I enjoy myself. Of course I enjoy myself
more when I can sit here, watch the vapor from my coffee,
look out the window, and read meaning into the rain-sheen
on the deck. Me and my little poems. Pain is hard to do
justice to. One of many reasons I am in awe of you. Re politics,
I live on a blue island in a sea of red. Progressive. Cozy.
Give me a beer on the patio at one of our lovely pubs: that’s policy
I can get behind. Let’s see. Our last meeting was in Chinatown,
the Evergreen, that dyed-in-the-wool old-school joint
beneath the concrete moan of the Stevenson. It was cold.
I remember zip about the food. We were tired, enervated
from two days of full immersion in the river of words,
words, and more words. Scrape of silverware, passing of platters.
You recommended a book which I later read and quite enjoyed.
We were talking about fame. That conference can be an ego-
stroke or -blow. Or both. “Thank God for anonymity,” you said.
I nodded heartily and resumed looking at my plate.
I’ve met myself a lot in my life. Do we live in Venn diagrams?
There I go. I need to be Bukowski-loud, Ginsberg-garrulous.
But the world is also charged with silent, eloquent gestures:
our server’s tiny, embarrassed smile, the iridescent fish
going nowhere, cutting clean angles in the humming, bubbling water.
The fish tank of language. Jim, I wish to swim with that much purpose.
We ate until we were sated. We paid the bill. We walked back
across Wentworth to your car, got in, drove to the reading,
and sat respectfully in the back. This is the world. Anonymity:
I hear you, but I have to think on it. Keep life full. All best, Michael.
Michael Diebert is the poetry editor for The Chattahoochee Review and teaches writing and literature at Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta. He is the author of Life Outside the Set, available from Sweatshoppe Publications. Other recent work has appeared in Alabama Literary Review and the Georgia volume of Texas Review Press’s Southern Poetry Anthology series.