There is a man, there is a woman, and there is a child. Their faces too plain, their mouths too wide. It's a grim business. You can feel it piling up however quiet you refuse to be. Watch them. They woke up one morning and their hands were all rubber. "How can you hold me?" they asked. "How can I feel you
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In a Landscape: IV
Now the scene changes, we say, and the next few years are quiet. It’s another curse, the inverse of the “interesting times” the Chinese were said to go on so about. Nevertheless, there it is, as the emptiness needs a something in order to be defined as empty, which means we spend the next few years talking about other years, as if that’s what’s important. Maybe that is what’s important. It was terrible, the hospital stay. The children. Not the children in the abstract way, but those times worried that this would go wrong, or that, and then things do go wrong and it almost feels like we’d wished for it to happen, so not only do we have to go through this terrible time, but we also have to keep reminding ourselves that we didn’t wish for it. It’s Problem One. And there’s our two-year-old son strapped to a board with an IV, crying. And doesn’t it feel like a formal device then? As if expecting it were the same—or is the same—as willing it, but then almost willing it anyway, saying something like, “Please God, or whomever, get it over with already . . .” if the world isn’t going to be a museum only, as museums keep calling out that there’s so much more to find in the past, like ourselves, for instance. The simplification of our forms. The question of why it might be important to save our dinnerware, or Yo-yos. We have these accidents in common: last night I was pulling a filing cabinet upstairs on a hand truck, and at the 90 degree turn it fell on top of me and I had to hold it like that, one wheel on the stair, one in mid-air. So I had some time on my hands, waiting for Robin to get home. They say that if you relax, lying there is 80% as restful as sleep. And knowing how to relax is key, they say. Here’s a guess: we will sit on a wooden lawn-chair in the sun, and we will like it. We will run the numbers and think it sounds like a good proposition. We will consult a map, even ask directions. The sun’s out right now, in fact, and it’s all a matter of doing the next big thing. Driving home, say. And then it’s a manner of having done something. Driving past the car wash. Yes, forcing a matter of doing the next thing, which is filling out the accident report, while the old man who hit my pickup is crying in the street. And then I’m walking around, picking up the fender and light pieces and putting them in the bed.
John Gallaher is the author of Map of the Folded World (University of Akron Press, 2009) and The Little Book of Guesses (Four Way Books, 2007), which won the Levis Poetry Prize. He is an associate professor of English at Northwest Missouri State University and coeditor of The Laurel Review.