Taylor Leopold via Unsplash

How to Get It Back

Books remaindered, half-priced

to clear space for other authors.

Outside: rain. Beyond that, dust rises.

Rushing traffic tears away whole strips

of damp from highway tarmac.

So big, the world. Even this sliver of it.

To say nothing of its people.

Two girls discuss the one-day-a-week

internship a mutual friend has landed.

Jealousy there. Snark. But also relief.

Gladness. Anything reduced to a word

loses touch with all else. Like poems,

which run longer than does any good

because this is true. I bought a book.

Two books. One was remaindered.

The other was a reprint. In it: the story

of a young woman struggling to know

what drove a man to grievously harm

a woman who’d shown him kindness.

The remaindered writer

had written the foreword: the stories,

she wrote, “stir… recognition …

as intimate as awakened memory.”

I’ve never known violence. A friend

with a split lip. Another friend locked

in a sleeper hold next to a car muffler.

My own fist forced through sheetrock.

I fear none of these experience suffices.

In the story the girl drives to the stump

where the woman’s body was found.

She sits, imagines the boy’s mind,

discovers how it feels to come awake

slowly to the world around her —

an old man pressing his face to glass,

a yellow fire hydrant. The town: failing

right before her eyes. The jobs she quit,

her mother’s disdain; her father, afraid

of everything but his own pancreas,

which became cancerous, killed him.

The boy shut his thumbs in the hinge

of an old corncrib: this makes sense,

if you accept loss could starve a person.

When I finish reading

I’m left sensing the need to capture

the crash of experience

against such loss.

My wife has gifts. As we find our car

and add to the dust, she tells a story

about a woman carrying a chihuahua

through the aisles. I try on shoes.

I buy a pair. It takes an hour to choose.

Driving home she brings up the dog

again. I was half-listening before,

and now I’m pissed at myself

for taking such a long time to decide,

for money spent, for knowing far less

than’s good about what should matter.

The sun elbows through clouds —

but enough about the weather.

Enough about how little I notice,

how seldom things resonate.

The day’s waning. My wife has gifts

for the athletes she coaches,

whom I haven’t mentioned yet.

On TV bombs go off, a man loses a leg,

another his mind. It’s all the truth,

but I can’t decide what to make of it.

Write another poem, I tell myself.

Write it and let it stand for confusion.

Let it lack rhyme and linger

in free-verse hell.

Describe the blankets and the mug,

the baskets your wife’ll give graduates

she’s helped train and avoid injury,

to whom she’s endeared herself.

The sun and clouds, too. And stories,

and all the doubts you’ve come to

cold with in the middle of the night.

I write about life and sometimes about writing here on Medium and at Fallerideas.com. I’m currently in search of a way through. If you would like to join my quest, follow me on Twitter @PatrickFaller.

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