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  PoetryMagazine.com
                    Since 1996 Volume XXI



                              
Ellen McGrath Smith


2018

Ellen McGrath Smith teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, The Dog Makes His Rounds and Scatter, Feed, and a full-length collection of poetry, Nobody's Jackknife. Her work has won the Orlando and Rainmaker awards, and an Academy of American Poets Prize.

 

How Apart People Are in Time Together

 

"I was thinking about time — he gropes —

you know how apart people are in time together and apart at the same time — stops."

                                                                     —Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red

 

What happens is the world-grope, where lover A leaves a message

         lover B denies getting, and lover B makes a cold-call, later,

asking Did you call me?  I see you on my caller I.D. A tree's communication

         with a cactus several thousand miles away could not be thornier,

less tethered to the real (if "real" is where the roots live). Lover A

         is just an echo thrown for lover B's loose bearings. Where

lover A did not, in fact, call the second time, but compensation for

         the real call that had been denied looped in to the periphery

of just-when-lover A is sure of where she stands. Sheets like open

         hands:  again, Anne Carson making Herakles say to Geryon

Can't you ever just fuck and not think?—And so, to make the bed,

         but not to make it tight as some monastic trampoline, is what

the doctor orders. In addition to four lush peonies weighing down

         the stems that pushed them into blossom, there is Venus

hiding all the lost domestic cats between her bluegray thighs.

         Lover B becomes George Washington, crossing many rivers

and stroking just enough to get to the dry other side;  lover A

         remembers cherry pie and weeps for the loss of her cat.

Tiki torches spell the angles of the next-door balcony, where

         the conversation sounds like a Bukowski poem, but held in

loosely as a Sunday-night functioning drunk. On the peonies,

         ants are running errands. Petal by petal they fall off the globe.

The world-grope is a state of mind that pulls in states like Delaware,

         then just as easily lops them off and flushes them through

Atlantic pipes—abstract lands where beaches grow in season

         and the credit extended for some necessary pleasure

eventually runs out—

 












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