4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

To do one thing well over and over

rattlesnakes for pop-guns, meat for rope

Eclogue

  • Twenty-Two Months
  • Rent in the neighborhood is dropping.
  • Rent everywhere is dropping. Can you spare
  • a little CHANGE,
  • asks the sign where my bank,
  • merging with the bank across the street,
  • fails. I want to own land in my country.
  • I want to make my place in this city certain.
  • The fish in the bar next to the laundromat:
  • do they know the limits of their translucent world?
  • When my wife died I thought,
  • All within us praise His holy name.
  • His power and glory ever more proclaimed.
  • Even then I knew that life didn’t really end,
  • that it would fissure into two places,
  • inside and out. The woman I love now
  • distinguishes absence from loss.
  • When there is no fog on a nearby hill
  • we walk through her old neighborhood
  • to the city’s highest point.

Zugzwang

Eighteen Months

  • (n.) Compulsion to move. A chess term referring
  • to a situation in which a player would like to do
  • nothing (pass), since any move will damage his position.
  • Not that it mattered in the beginning
  • but there were patterns. I saw three moves
  • to your bishop, six to your rook, nine to your queen
  • and then a slow game of pawns. Almost at mate,
  • I forgot the axes running to the corners,
  • failed to anticipate your casual sweep of the lanes,
  • one side of my board plucked clean like a branch of wild
  • anything. You opened a window to let out the heat.
  • We started again. It felt good to keep playing,
  • to do one thing well over and over.
  • Maybe that’s why I liked
  • the pizza place around the block that burnt our crusts,
  • why you could not wait to move uptown,
  • away from the martinis, mochas, and Marc Jacobs.
  • Our new home was several blocks from anywhere.
  • Half a mile out the buoy lights shined like rosary beads.
  • If we were quiet and mindful the trees around the lake
  • shook when we walked beneath them.

Badlands

  • Theodore Roosevelt came here to die again.
  • Evenings, rain started from one
  • side of the sky and crossed overhead.
  • He named his wife in every miniature valley
  • peaked with miniature stones.
  • He slept on floors and under bunks,
  • democratic, hanging back
  • when the workmen rushed to work.
  • Six or seven months he stayed ahead of it,
  • his fingertips hardening into glass,
  • the silver on his jacket
  • translucent from a distance.
  • He weighted down one name,
  • then another until they disappeared
  • from letters: excised, a tax on the work.
  • He took to trading skins for furs,
  • rattlesnakes for pop-guns, meat for rope.
  • Whole afternoons of buffalo
  • shook the empty ground he crossed.

John W. Evans is a Jones Lecturer in creative writing at Stanford University. His memoir, Should I Still Wish, is forthcoming in 2017. He is the author of Young Widower: A Memoir, winner of the 2014 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize and a 2015 Forewords Review Prize; The Consolations, winner of the 2015 Peace Corps Writers Best Poetry Book; and two poetry chapbooks.

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Eclogue

  • Twenty-Two Months
  • Rent in the neighborhood is dropping.
  • Rent everywhere is dropping. Can you spare
  • a little CHANGE,
  • asks the sign where my bank,
  • merging with the bank across the street,
  • fails. I want to own land in my country.
  • I want to make my place in this city certain.
  • The fish in the bar next to the laundromat:
  • do they know the limits of their translucent world?
  • When my wife died I thought,
  • All within us praise His holy name.
  • His power and glory ever more proclaimed.
  • Even then I knew that life didn’t really end,
  • that it would fissure into two places,
  • inside and out. The woman I love now
  • distinguishes absence from loss.
  • When there is no fog on a nearby hill
  • we walk through her old neighborhood
  • to the city’s highest point.

Zugzwang

Eighteen Months

  • (n.) Compulsion to move. A chess term referring
  • to a situation in which a player would like to do
  • nothing (pass), since any move will damage his position.
  • Not that it mattered in the beginning
  • but there were patterns. I saw three moves
  • to your bishop, six to your rook, nine to your queen
  • and then a slow game of pawns. Almost at mate,
  • I forgot the axes running to the corners,
  • failed to anticipate your casual sweep of the lanes,
  • one side of my board plucked clean like a branch of wild
  • anything. You opened a window to let out the heat.
  • We started again. It felt good to keep playing,
  • to do one thing well over and over.
  • Maybe that’s why I liked
  • the pizza place around the block that burnt our crusts,
  • why you could not wait to move uptown,
  • away from the martinis, mochas, and Marc Jacobs.
  • Our new home was several blocks from anywhere.
  • Half a mile out the buoy lights shined like rosary beads.
  • If we were quiet and mindful the trees around the lake
  • shook when we walked beneath them.

Badlands

  • Theodore Roosevelt came here to die again.
  • Evenings, rain started from one
  • side of the sky and crossed overhead.
  • He named his wife in every miniature valley
  • peaked with miniature stones.
  • He slept on floors and under bunks,
  • democratic, hanging back
  • when the workmen rushed to work.
  • Six or seven months he stayed ahead of it,
  • his fingertips hardening into glass,
  • the silver on his jacket
  • translucent from a distance.
  • He weighted down one name,
  • then another until they disappeared
  • from letters: excised, a tax on the work.
  • He took to trading skins for furs,
  • rattlesnakes for pop-guns, meat for rope.
  • Whole afternoons of buffalo
  • shook the empty ground he crossed.

John W. Evans is a Jones Lecturer in creative writing at Stanford University. His memoir, Should I Still Wish, is forthcoming in 2017. He is the author of Young Widower: A Memoir, winner of the 2014 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize and a 2015 Forewords Review Prize; The Consolations, winner of the 2015 Peace Corps Writers Best Poetry Book; and two poetry chapbooks.

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