WINDY, WITH CLOUDS BREAKING
My note from the night before reads
Drink water. Lots of water. Only water.
For when clouds break
xxxxxxxxxxxx it matters they be empty.
The performance coach says It matters
you know how your look reads.
On another note
are the syllables mots-a-rell-a
so dad will eat the cheese he no longer has the word for.
And another, Mr. Goldstrike, for the zone-appropriate plant
I can’t remember the look of right now.
So much is about forgetting.
Wind scrubbing the young stands of sycamore at the river
until they reach like tuning forks. Clouds breaking
xxxxxxxxxxxxx as if we could see inside.
I’m here, riverbank—
wearing John Berryman’s glasses
like everyone else.
I was thinking that evergreen
looked like a Leonardo, i.e., the umbrella
pines of Rome.
I was thinking of their soft
candles in spring that aim toward
the sun like birds each
morning, careening beyond the visual
mayhem of geranium
red. In that color
riot, it’s a relief to see female
finches & cardinals bland as cartoon
pitted stonefruits, aging
uteruses, pantoums all: repeat, repeat,
done. You want something
you don’t have? What is it
you have now? The sky swims into the river,
the skylights, & windows;
traffic writes its Hebraic script
The MOCA test requires that one recall only
five words: Velvet. Face. Church. Daisy. Red.
Dad got none of them.
With or without my glasses,
not one is not a picture I will never see.
The man I’d hired cut the mower’s engine, shouting
uphill to me he had to go pick up his son. Lost his license.
DUI. He’s a Afghan vet with that post-partum stress depression.
Seen things you and I can’t even phantom. I thought I could,
so waved him off as understanding people do and turned away.
Skype and middle age had made me wary of being
looked at from below. Zelda Fitzgerald drew everything
from that perspective, as if seated always in the orchestra,
or a child at the foot of a drawer at the morgue.
When the neurologist illuminated my father’s brain
scan at the V.A., I had to re-adjust my own perspective
to understand that we were viewing from below.
Through jawbone, nostrils, eye sockets, a series
of curtains parted to reveal, finally, his frontal lobes,
twin prosceniums so dark, nothing could be seen.
xxxxwith a penultimate couplet adapted from Sabrina Orah Mark
I went out looking
at Europe & all its stones
its diagonal churches & bronze
horses my shoes clattering like their
shoes my eyes as wild
If the heart is a cup
if coins are diamonds
well then we are
full & we are rich
baked sometimes inside the cake
is a favor not a file
sometimes cake is all we eat
How pretty the pedestrians inside
their full-face haloes of dog fur
Arrow is my hometown—
isn’t that what Stein meant?
How can I choose between
Heaven & Sorry
when I own both
of them so much already?
Kathy Fagan’s forthcoming book is Sycamore (Milkweed Editions, March 2017). Her first collection, The Raft, won the National Poetry Series; her second, MOVING & ST RAGE, the Vassar Miller Poetry Prize. Recent work appears in The New Republic and Narrative. Director of the Creative Writing Program at Ohio State, Fagan serves as Series Editor of the OSU Press/The Journal Wheeler Poetry Prize. Her website is http://www.kathyfagan.net