Left to My Own Devices

The floor’s level now. It was as easy as moving
a red handle, as buying a jack, as cutting a hole
in the floor, as being born, as translating Rilke badly
but with the exhilaration of one who loved
flipping the pages of two dictionaries simultaneously.
Not the panther poem but some other
Austrian lyricism I’ve forgotten, how many of my moments
are contrails, bold, white slashes
against a blue background that are gone the next time
you look up from your turkey sandwich? You
and your box lunches. I suspect jets are really a means
for the birth of contrails, that forgetting
is a form of life, just as knowing for certain
where the keys are should have a species name. No matter.
I’ll never be six foot tall so I hop a lot,
and at the top of the hop, I’m probably six two,
six three, so I write that down on forms
that want to know how tall I am, as if a blank space
is really curious. The form is not specific
about duration—how tall are you and how long
have you been that tall—so the question
is either demure or badly phrased. The difference
between the thought of the thing and the thing
goes away for Caroline when she gathers and staples
her skin. There’s just the pain. It’s not a word
or a ball of sunlight, it’s this very specific attempt
not to scream so her husband won’t know
what she’s doing to the thigh he doesn’t visit much
these days. Is there a point, you might be asking,
and I might be telling you no, not beyond the shape
of a god up ahead as we’re walking,
which when we get to it, is not a god but a naked
piece of stone. The days have stacked into who I am
but if I met one of them again, out on the street,
I doubt I’d recognize it. It could ask me the time
and I wouldn’t know it was my past, the irony of this
would be lost on me, it would float off wherever
forsaken irony goes, and someone in an official smock
would trip the “we’re running low on irony siren”
but it wouldn’t work, thus increasing our stock of irony,
praise the Lord. I’d be sad if trees stopped telling
the truth. I mean really, really sad, like rusted lug nut
sad, you out on the highway with your flat, beating
what won’t let go with the lug wrench, then sitting there
with bits of bottles thrown from cars, sorting shatter
by color and shape.

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