poems in the march shredness tradition: timothy donnelly

poem interrupted by whitesnake

(Originally appeared, in different form, at poets.org.)

That agreeable feeling you haven’t been able to
put into words to your satisfaction despite
too many white-knuckled attempts to do so might

prove in the end to be nothing more than
satisfaction itself, an advanced new formula
just waiting like product to be marketed as such:

Let my logo be the couch, I can feel it pulse
like the moon like the fool I have come to feel
attached to continues to pull away at an estimated

1.6 inches every solar year: Let my logo be
the couch you merge into nights until you can’t
love like the shadows of a factory warehouse

ghost-historic Secaucus built on top of old swamp-
land I can feel it: Let my love be the couch
you merge into nights until you can’t even tell

what you wanted to begin with, let my theme be
the scrapes of an infinite catalogue’s pages
turning over again until the right product finds you

widened in the air above the city as a goldfinch,
state bird of New Jersey, stops midflight and falls
to the asphalt of its final parking lot. Where it lands

is a sacred site and Earth is covered in them,
each opening the tongue through which the entire
wheat field generates. As this happens inside

oneself one has felt oneself to be the owner of it.
From the perimeter of the field you watch over
a harmony of workers busy with their given tasks:

some cut the wheat, others bundle it; others
picnic in the shade of a central pear tree, itself a form
of labor, too, unfolding at the worksite, a gentle

pride gilding this last observation like jellied sunlight
spread through October. Because it happens
inside you, you feel you must be the owner of it,

owner at least of what you feel, but call out to
the workers, even kindly, and they won’t call back
in kind, they won’t even look up from their work.

                        There must be someplace

else where life takes place besides in front of
     merchandise, but at the moment I can’t think of it.

In the clean white light of the market I am where
     I appertain, where everything exists for me

to purchase. If there’s a place of not meaning
     what you feel but at the same time meaning every

trembly word, or almost, I might have been taught
     better to avoid it, but

                                         here I go again

on my own, going down the only road I’ve ever
     known, trusting Secaucus’s first peoples

meant something specific and true when they fused
     the words seke, meaning black, and achgook,

meaning snake, together to make a compound
     variously translated as “place where the snake

hides,” “place of black snakes,” or, simply,
     “salt marsh.”

                              Going moon over the gone marsh

Secaucus used to be, I keep making the same
     mistake over and over, and so do you, gradually

speeding up your orbital velocity, and thereby
     increasing your orbital radius, just like Kepler

said you would, and though I keep trying not
     to take it to heart, I can’t see where else there is

to go with it. In German, a Kepler makes caps
     like those the workers wear who bundle twigs

for kindling under the irregular gloom. One looks as if
     about to make repairs to a skeletal umbrella

or to thoughts a windmill might entertain by means
     of a silver fish. Off in the distance, ships tilt

through the choppy inlet. Often when I look wholly
     at an object, I feel it looking back, evaluating

my capacity to afford it.

                                         Maybe not wanting
     anything in particular leaves you mildly wanting

whatever, constantly, spreading like a wheat
     field inside you as far as the edge of the pine

forest where the real owners hunt fox. They keep you
     believing what you see and feel are actually

yours or yours to choose. And maybe it’s this
     belief that keeps you from burning it all down.

In this economy, I am like the fox, my paws no good
     for fire-starting yet, and so I scamper back

to my deep den to fatten on whatever I can find.
     Sated, safe, disremembering what it’s like

up there, meaning everywhere, I tuck nose under tail
     after I exhaust the catalogues, the cheap stuff

and sad talk to the moon, including some yelping
     but never howling at it, which is what a wolf does.

Timothy Donnelly’s publications include The Cloud Corporation and the chapbook Hymn to Life. He is on the faculty of Columbia University’s Writing Program and poetry editor of Boston Review.

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