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Recorded for Poem-a-Day February 5, 2019.
About this Poem 

“This poem is a composite of various scenes of unhappiness I’ve stumbled across—not all of them having taken place in Florence, though all were in the tri-state area of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. My partner is from that area and I’ve spent my summers there for the last decade. It’s a particularly beautiful and lush area in the summer right near the Ohio river—full of wild growth, big starry skies, fireflies, and copious deer—but it’s also a region full of particularly American forms of ugliness (big box retailers, gun stores, etc.). Once, just as I asked how polluted the river was, a full toilet came cruising down the water like a flotilla preceded by a twenty-foot navel of sludge. In some ways, that’s the feeling behind the poem—that there is beauty in how people go on despite the many degradations visited upon us.”
—Adam Scheffler

Florence, Kentucky

So what if the old man
on the bus is trying and                              	
failing to remember his dead
mom’s face, as if the past were
not a cartoon tunnel scratched
on a wall?                            	 
 
He’s still trying,
and when did we forget our
cattle-shoes and feather-parkas,
how we carry with us a lowing
sadness, an extinguished memory
of flight?
 
Today I’m going to count all the                	
blackbirds between the prison
and the Walmart where, right
now, in its galloping sadness
a bald man who sounds like
a car horn is hector-lecturing
his infant-hushing                           	
girlfriend—as her unhappiness,
radiant as a cleat, sharp as an ice
skate, sprays to a sudden stop.
 
Right now, at the emergency
crisis center right next to the                       	
gun store, the nurse feels entombed
in hours like a fly in amber
as the waiting room TVs
spin despair’s golden honey—
 
and I think of the ice I waded out
on as a kid, of how often the world
seems like it’s going to shatter,
but then, miraculously,
mercilessly, does not.

Copyright © 2019 by Adam Scheffler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Adam Scheffler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 5, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Adam Scheffler

Adam Scheffler

Adam Scheffler is the author of A Dog’s Life (Jacar Press, 2016), winner of the Jacar Press Full-Length Poetry Book Contest.