We wore white hats and tights, colorful buttons
preventing the wind from undoing our clothes.
Somebody blew into a wooden tube. Another slapped
taut calfskin at regular intervals. The resulting tune
evoked a transgressive experience in the body. The routine
exhalations intensified, became exaltation. The graveyard
shift at the sawdust factory no longer seemed
like the dead end it was. Here we go, we exclaimed to ourselves,
watch us go. Fish-counting by the dry creek bed (largemouth bass
conspicuously absent, no common shiner, no fallfish) was one
of our innumerable pastimes. All we needed
was bossa nova in a darkened room. All we needed
were a bassinet and a basset hound. All we needed we wrote
on our unwashed palms and in the locked shorthand of ledgers.
What is the soul’s cryptocurrency? The overpowering sounds
of the respective animals inside us kept us from sleep more frequently
than the medical journals advised. Bottlecap eyes, horned tongue,
we did not like what we gleaned from the mirrors, and the older we turned
the more we remembered. We had been looking forward
to the party, but then we saw the invite list, remembered
a discarded tenderness in the wilderness, took stock of our economic
and romantic relationships with every fellow being. Smashed,
crumpled world. And yet the sunlight has continued to tousle gently
the mussed tops of the trees. We had been so many times told to keep
our eye on the ball, but the ball seems to be missing. Good luck
finding anyone to replace someone: we searched the dunes and the inebriated
light of culinary hotspots, the curvaceous back alleys
of upmarket warehouse districts, an ocean of keys, red yarn
constellations, the chiseled silhouettes of faces left behind
in the mind’s mushrooming repository, and no dice,
because we did not understand the game, because we could not follow
its simple rules. The music caused us to resort
to dancing, so we jumped about, then soared
into the chartless galaxies in front of us
like whining birds from a faraway star
hurtling our warbling, pulsating masses
toward blurred apocalypse of soot and creosote.
We have seen the white pavilions in the open field.
Everything will be taken away before it’s handed back.

Image Credit: Attic, Willem de Kooning / THE MET.

About the author

I am the author of the poetry collection My Soviet Union (University of Massachusetts Press), winner of Juniper Prize for Poetry; and coeditor of the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande). Other poems from this manuscript have won the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society in America, appeared in the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day Project, have been published in such journals as Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Copper Nickel, Iowa Review, and Ploughshares, and are forthcoming in APR and The Believer.
Originally from the former Soviet Union, I am a professor of literature and creative writing at Bennington College, where I serve as editor of Bennington Review.

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