Letter to Lawler from Fort Collins

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Morning headlines confide, “Anchor breaks
down over verdict,” “Anniston flaunts bikini bod,”
“Beckham shows baby bump,” “Snake born
with two heads.” I don’t know where
to burn first. Toward a woman crying out
for touch? Or inside, where a different
cry resides? Mary Ann’s in the store.
Bootsie and me parked, cottonwood
cool, on the nap. I keep massaging
my joints, knowing you’re in there
too. You grew up in a basement, Patrick.
People laugh, think it a joke. But you had no house.
After school you’d approach a slab,
descend cement into all that lack
of electricity. Why can’t we. Live in a house.
Like everybody. Else. Family
took your mouth. Mangled my tongue. Took us both
dumb. I’m writing from Fort Collins,
down the Livermore mountain for food. The horse
neighing me awake, says, Appaloosa
appalls even the mall, says Palomino is more
than a motel on the north end of town.
For a long time we have been brothers
in how to survive. You below ground,
me above. 7600 feet higher than you
in Liverpool. New York childhurt raw as sugar
ripped from the rib of an owl metabolizing
mice into a rush of blood-orange.
Makes me hope Mary Ann returns
with apples. One a day keeps
the throat. Words stick in the long way down.
Their intent, sharp as all we hold
back. There’s a young blonde with a gorgeous
denimed ass and two armloads of food, screaming
at a little dawdling boy. I know her
word comes onto him, in, like the goo
of deranged crustaceans. He wants to sink
through the parking lot into the ocean of blurred word
where he can forever and again the strands of her hand.
He’s missing something. He’s incomplete.
It’s not a verb. It’s not his mother’s hair.
He’s only five and wants to grow up and leave
his monkey bars, live in a basement
where the light can’t leach. What did you do at night?
I asked. Simple, you said. When the sun went down,
we went to bed. It takes a long time for the sun to die
in Fort Collins, as if the sky was
equally shy. I consider the bikini bods
and baby bumps of life, that two-headed
snake. Remember the three-headed
Hydra of our past. Father, son, and holy
smoke that smothered us both. Let me make my mouth.
Let me exact your stance. Your Irish father who loved
to drink. His eldest son. A basement
whose house had ashed-over
white. We all take our time. We all try
dying. We are all children of divorce.
Even if we is me. We this and that,
we yes and no, we anchor or steam. All the way down
through dichotomous dust. We one word
less, each word broken, chousing
after thin-ribbed calves cowpoke-slow. Let us step our ponies
over fallen timber. Let us appaloosa and palomino
and bay. Some people are secretly trees
when the light goes off, breathing
in bed through knotted backs aching
weight, leaking all that pine resin
as we stand wind-stiff tough. Me,
in the log-cut of Livermore. You,
in upstate New York, no boyhood
door, pulling a shower curtain across a pole
to say goodnight. We survive. Somehow
I arrive when Mary Ann emerges with the pears
and enough coffee for two, and the blonde
with the ass and the jeans and her scolding is gone.
We this and that, we fallen log, we dichotomous and dust—
Mary Ann and me, your past and mine, the word “live”
pine-lodged in Liverpool. In Livermore.
Thirty-three miles back, we climb 2600 feet
above Fort Collins. We try what it was like for you
but in reverse. We cry out. Descend
the steps. Even as we climb. Each day and sink.
Into, away from our youth. This rise. In elevation.

 (for Patrick Lawler)

 

 

Photo By: Joe Newman

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About Author

George Kalamaras, Poet Laureate of Indiana, is the author of seven books of poetry and seven chapbooks, including The Mining Camps of the Mouth (2012), winner of the New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM chapbook contest, Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck (2011), winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize, and The Theory and Function of Mangoes (2000), winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize. His poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry (on two occasions), Denver Quarterly, The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, New Letters, North American Review, and many other anthologies and journals. He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.

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