40th Anniversary Feature: FROM THE LOOKOUT BOOK

Sep 16, 2013Archive, Feature

BWR Editor, 1986-1987


If white is the color of mischief, then these white walls, this little house of marble we hide behind willing the man with his notebook to find someone else to follow. We hide, kin to bone, to tuft of fur caught in the chain link fence, to everything under the snow: tooth, grass, a skunk’s belly bloated and facing heaven. If earth, then ground and the body it blanketed. If winter, then salt to eat the rubber from your boots, sting skin already cracked and weeping. Skin the blue edge between weather and the bodies we used to carry. Didn’t we hope something easy might rise from the snow and rock us? Rock us long past the dreaming of what we had lost.





Stranger, list the ways weather tilts the body forward, from the ice body to the body made of sand, the body called from mud. The way weather passes through cell by cell, along spine or synapse. How it runs down the body’s current, the long route past lighting or storm. Pay attention to the way a hand curls, how the tendons of the neck tighten, the skin’s memory of shock and spark. Because you are no stranger to blood or muscle, the bones that refuse to settle, the legs that kick when the body falls toward darkness and comes back to fall again. Stranger, sleep has its own technologies. It lets you walk through snow or walls or water. It lets you linger in that other country. Do you remember? It tugs like a dry wind, that day the body refused to lie down.





Here is a bowl of water, a clean cloth, a whisper. Wash the first story, lie to the second, send the third off to school where it will learn to play with other children. Here are drawers, wooden baskets, boxes. Take this key. Put this key in your pocket. Hold this key so tight the teeth cut into skin. Here is a blanket for folding or spreading or spreading over. A canvas tarp in case of rain. A knife to scratch directions in the ground. Soon morning will crack the green cold with light. Will lies run from your ears, from your mouth, from your fingers? Here are dry twigs, pages, matches. Write what never happened.



Janet McAdams is the author of two poetry collections and a novel. Her first book won an American Book Award. She teaches at Kenyon College.


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