To do one thing well over and over
rattlesnakes for pop-guns, meat for rope
- 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.
- (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.
- 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.