As Linda Aldrich’s poem “The Mime” shows us, inner and outer vision often complete each other. The mime allows us to see what isn’t there, but could be, and memory allows us to see again what was. The interaction of the two creates a “study of hope melting into the perfect moment,” a kiss received by all.
Jeffrey Thomson’s poem “Twin” perhaps brings up the darker side of our twin lives, the inner and outer, or the life of metaphor and the darker life of what can’t be so easily shaped into words. “They exist together,” he says, “the carcass and the stalking silhouette,/witched together by possibility’s spell.” Metaphor–or art, perhaps, makes us feel great, but we still have our darker thoughts, those inner yammerings in the dark.
In my poem, “In the Aftermath”
I let language lead me through a response to a particularly long winter.
The Psi function for the entire system would express this by having in it the living and the dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.
—E. Schrödinger``Die gegenwartige Situation in der Quantenmechanik”
Fall has finally come in a torrent
that tears leaves from the locust—
glitter mucking up the gutter,
choking the storm sewer, water
backing up, bowed with oil and filmy—
and, no, what it makes me think of
is not love dying, the glorious bronze
rage and ruin of the last days, and
not my own age yammering in the dark
as it loses control of its bladder again
and the piss rains out on the mat
before the toilet golden as shame, no,
not all that, but strangely enough,
a cat, a particular cat locked in a box,
forced to live its life stalking corners,
unaware of the isotope’s decay hanging
fire in that space like a bare bulb,
the one that will split its life in two (two
halves unhalved and parallel): one cautious,
alive and aware, green foil of eyeshine,
the other flat and black as a burn
on the floor. They exist together,
the carcass and the stalking silhouette,
witched together by possibility’s spell.
But I’m afraid it’s all just metaphor,
quantum reflection in the mirror of desire.
Not the cat alive or dead, but both
at once: love and its failure, metaphor
and madness, youth and age with
its orchestra of sighs, the leaves
streaming through the storm-rich dark
and the mess they cause in the gutter.
Metaphor strokes the cat and buries it,
slides out from beneath the last daylight,
straightens her skirt and smoothes her
pink-streaked hair. Metaphor turns the air
to viognier and buys a round for the house—
she’s generous that way. Metaphor
fucks a guy she finds in the bathroom,
makes him a poet. Metaphor stalks
through the night, painting the air
with a waste of ______ that makes even
bridges beautiful. She wakes in the morning
without regret, but Metaphor doesn’t talk
about her twin brother, locked away
in the hospital, pacing an ellipse
into the carpet beneath the single bulb
always on in that windowless room.
from Birdwatching in Wartime
In the Aftermath
It’s all shovel and dig, snow banks
done up to glow, getting dirty.
All shove and dog, the world half riddle,
half proof. It’s fiddle and roof,
the deedle dum and shrug of prayer.
Icy streets, mincing steps, and later—
why not dance, sore shins into whirlwind,
till we can’t tell ourselves from God?
Of course we all know: Afterlife =
empty-wallets, no shoes in the coffin.
And we know: before walking on ice
to take our hands out of our pockets.
Meanwhile somebody’s taking the long view,
reminding us mountains turn to silt.
Or sometimes I think silk—those Japanese screens
on which tiny people cross a bridge
overlooking a steep gorge,
as if that’s want we were wanting before
we forgot: To be happily effaced by awe,
that moment talk defers to silence.
Oh imperfect tense, oh past, unfinished
and progressive, help me
to actually be doing this,
stepping onto that tenuous bridge
beside the water’s plummet—
[first published in Plume]