SARAH LOUISE GREEN
January 29, 2010
A voice on the radio rattles through
this needle-strewn morning. Some sick
pine bows in a choke of industry as a corner
of the world wakes, spinning on its own grease.
I’ve probably had ten gallons
of bitter coffee this November,
the sharp-shinned hawks patrolling
the sawdust on my tongue.
Fingers of algae remain hung
under the horizon’s eye line, the dinghy
overturned and cupping the murky water.
Sitting on a fishy shore, I hold out
my scepter-arm, pardon the stink,
listening to a mockingbird stuck
on repeat, the errant track crowding
out each clunk of the half-rotten gull
against the sunken plank. Then the flash
of forks and lighters through the train window,
railroad couture barreling by the sea,
shaking limp wings and notions out of me.
In the event of rain
Not just any familiar cobweb
in the corner of your room. Not the TV
corner. The other corner of room 742.
You thought you were on the seventh floor
at first. Turns out it’s the second.
The hospital started counting
at 600. This means you’re one of 100
lucky bastards with a balcony.
There is a painted square next to the railing.
There is a designated smoking area.
You can survey the world from here,
note its many happy and unhappy members.
You remember a child
you never had. Not for lack
of wanting. Down the north side
of the building, white gowns flutter,
flagging down a stormfront.
The day is pleasant. All at once,
names are called. You try to make the voice
match the pleasant day. But the nurse repeats
your name. A new family strolls out to the car
with a pink baby. What have they done.
Clouds move by. Your name is called
again. Nothing happens here:
weather scatters patients into rooms.
I’ve finally given in
to the curious habits of modern saints,
tearing through hours, no matter
whether golden or dark.
Staving off nothing.
Pleasant smoke rises
from houses along the highway
where displays of nostalgia
chatter behind lantern-lit windows.
Making my way somewhere,
marking my progress by prisons
with names like Pleasant Valley and Pelican Bay,
some erected especially for high-risk cases.
As if our being here wasn’t enough.
We come and go alone.
The uncomfortable electric towers,
making a span out of a measureless sky,
know this. Lining the interstate
with gravel, parts of crows,
the cars come and go.
If we were as still as the cattle
swarming the generator at sunset,
we would see our absurd loneliness,
the lazy wind bothering the rows of bare trees,
the birds roosting in a field’s corner.
Winter fruit exists
somewhere under layers of ice.
I think about Florida, about old people
and alligators, and my jaw aches
with cold pebble feelings.
I don’t remember going to the Everglades,
but I remember the Tule fog,
sitting pretty in the Valley,
eating my small car in the dark
of anyone’s existence.
Under the circumstances, we understand
why you have failed. We understand
why your vision will continue to fail.
Make it to any cracked coastline,
shake your head like an encumbered die
to see what falls this time
from its throaty calls, its endless blackbirds.
Sarah Louise Green lives and writes in San Leandro, CA. She will earn her MFA in poetry from Saint Mary’s College of California in May 2010, where she has been working with Brenda Hillman, Graham Foust, and Bruce Snider on her final manuscript, There (x), There (y).