He begins his poem by looking
Out a window, but ends his memoir
With a basket of fruit. He calls
His work an allegory, so this means
That I am the basket and the window
Pane is god. Objects never die
So long as we don’t break them,
Don’t disrupt them. I axed up the roses
And left my shovel with the higher-ups.
I was taught as a child to believe
In my own death, to conceptualize
The lightly-falling snow as tokens
To be placed, in my mind, beside
The fallen-on branches, the fallen-on tree,
The fallen-on Honda Civic EX whose
Red exterior resembled the exterior
Of the fallen-on male cardinal.
Snow = death one of my students wrote
But I did not write that there are no
Equal signs, that there will be no dying,
At least for me. Thinking that
My friend Michael will someday
Turn back into a fawn, and that I will
Be there to witness it, that he will
Witness my own transfiguration.
If snow = necklaces then death
Would be my throat as the snow
(the necklace) surrounds it. And if snow
Were a vibrator, death would be
The way the weather climaxes next to
You’s strap-on and I’s excursus—the you
And I of this poem. There is no truth
Outside the fact that when I open
A window, my books curl up from
The humidity. The snow is tired, the rain
Exhausted by our catalog of symbols,
Our images. Geologically speaking,
Grain was domesticated one minute
Before my husband bought beer
At Krauser’s for us to drink on our porch.
In the Paleolithic, they used cemeteries
As gardens, or vice versa, though
People today prefer to separate
Their vegetables from bones. Yes,
There is no truth, so when I say “those birds”
I mean “I don’t think I will die”
Though if I do I’d choose asphyxiation
For the romance the word suggests.
We are mortal (they say) yet we
Continue to check our Facebooks
In the hope that our words will
Somehow metamorphose into starlings,
That our words could “have wings.”
I wanted to speak in parables so simple
Even my students could fathom.
I wanted to dumb you down
With snow. You = whatever the snow
Will fall on. I = a basket of fruit.
The poem = a way to greet you. We =
Those birds, those birds, those birds.
THE WONDERS OF THE MODERN WORLD
I can think of other words for evening
Than the ones we use. I began
To list them and, in the beginning
I wrote something small:
You carved runes
Onto a sea-smooth plane.
Know what I am.
But the “I” and “you” were placeholders
For figures far immenser than
The idea of “us.” Only ciphers
Of emotion. The I and you
That poets use. I grew tired
Of crowdsourcing the weather
To find out what the rain is.
And I grew tired of etching for you
The contours of a shaft of light
As if to see the world as it is
Were to peek at the complexities
Of some red-petalled flower
And to think nothing evil, to think
Thoughts about nothing at all.
The sun performs the scene
Of a scene being performed.
The stock market does the same shit
Each morning and my pink fur coat
Comes in S, M, L, XL.
I remember the morning
You carved runes
Onto a sea-smooth plane.
Know what I am
Though I know I felt happy when I
Smoked the resin from a dead pine.
You said that negativity’s more
Honest when it comes to art,
That we write with the same aims
The seneschals had when they
Cursed the master craftsmen.
I don’t know what you are
Though, when I say “you.” You
Wanted to live after the death
Of the internet in a thatched-roof
Cottage in some fen or heath.
But I was thinking of how dirty
The children who’d actually live
In the cottages of our imaginations
And how false our visions
Of the Middle Ageses must be.
By dirt, I mean domestic life
By which of course, I mean women.
The dirty ones who sang poems
Since they couldn’t, the women,
At least, in all likelihood, read.
How empty to condense a life into
Fourteen lines of imperfect meter
And call it art. Here’s a quatrain
From the sonnet I never wrote you:
Just because you’re not surprised
When a blue jay drops the mic
At sunset, or when the police
Put the idea of money on repeat
But I couldn’t figure out the lines
That’d come before and after, how
To connect the “doesn’t mean that”
To the “just because you’re.”
What do we know about the sun?
Hit singeth. And what do we know
About the author? Only that
Having spent most of her life
Off I-95, she couldn’t tell lawns from
Those more ambient landscapes,
The proverbs of arcadia from facts
Within the fiction of the ode.
HE WAS ALREADY DEAD
All my love letters are written
in sans serif fonts.
When I lick the envelopes
the vines on my mirror turn black.
A still life is painted at the center
of the earth, and some think of iron
when they see it. I think of smoke.
Some say it’s the devil’s frozen
icon that hangs in this gallery.
There’s a light above the painting
that switches on off, on off.
If you disgrace yourself, the rain
will enter your bloodstream and
co-opt your thoughts of summer.
FYI to you whose favorite season
is autumn—the harvest will fail you.
You’ll get yourself kicked out
of the museum of the fall.
Sara Nicholson is the author of The Living Method (The Song Cave, 2014). She lives in Arkansas.