Black river cuts like glass through deep-woods pine.
You see this even from the Ford’s back seat.
And later, sun-stunned aspens gird the interpretive
center. Inside, photos, maps, and taxidermy:
heron, river otter, black-bear cub.
The pelts of foxes, elk. A video
your friend has made plays on a loop: it’s Bach
as background, shots of meadows, reedy ponds,
a sketch by Audubon, and interviews
with scientists now dead. Back home, your injured
dog, Elizabethan-collared, snoozes
in his crate. Your knee’s still killing you,
your shoulder crackling. Hell it is, getting
old. Remember you’re no better than grass.
It’s Shostakovich on the playlist now.
Emotes like Mahler, but he’s closer to
our zeitgeist: post-post irony in drag,
bright light that mates with shadow. It’s all right.
I’m drinking beer, so mellow and dramatic,
glasses sliding down my nose, scuffed dick
and balls snugged tight within my briefs. My days
stacked up like cards: don’t know the game. Or flapjacks
I can never finish on a syrupy
plate. I’m happier alone. For now.
Walk down the hall with me, my better self,
and save your tears for beauty. Love, suck in
your gut: someone good-looking’s looking. There.
Safe travels. See you on the other side.
Small talk, the kind you say you hate, just think
of it as lullabies we sing to one
another, padding pain and easing us,
like Mother or a surrogate once did
or does, or otherwise we’d all be dead.
The skin along your cheek and neck and chest,
drum-taut for brush-like fingers, pulses from
within, a jazz band’s riff, a battle cry
for tactics, acts, engagements, and improvisations
in love’s name. Your liquid eyes burn dark
then light, fresh campsites on the night’s hillside,
and circling round, the tribe, the fall and rise
of songs, the rhythm in the blood, the humming
rib bones of the whale that eats us all,
that feeds and cradles our next change, that spits
us out like seeds so bright the fires dim.
Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the Writing Center, and edits The Big Windows Review https://thebigwindowsreview.com/ at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His poems have appeared recently in Bleached Butterfly, Tigershark, and the anthology Nocturne: Poetry of the Night. Tom's website: https://thomaszimmerman.wordpress.com/.