Not as a Figment
A smoke detector with
foam taped over its nose. Silk
flowers in an urn. Nearby: orange
soda evaporates, a child’s wooden
toy. His mother stands on pink tile
in blue socks. The gentle curtain
of her gold skirt could be shelter,
could be longing. Beside her: spines
of books about business school
blanched by the sun. A half-eaten
banana left upside-down in a plastic
cup, its skin gently browning.
Song of Betel leaves being moved
from one cheek to the other and
someone sleeps on a sofa, the peal
of fleecy bells in the distance.
These real things. These real
things that make everything
real around them.
There was a lot of talk about what
the Buick could and couldn’t do.
Empty stares and spit. A beer can
Tender John itched his beard.
A dog barked at last.
Kids tried on mother’s makeup
and told secrets in nearby garages,
while a centennial lingered …
The sun was
Parts of the Buick’s engine
were spread on a red bed sheet.
Neighbors drifted on and
off the lawn, asking,
What could it do?
One time I saw a white rainbow outside Omaha.
One time I saw a striped iceberg with a pay stub stuck to it.
There is gravity, totally,
we’re told this.
Ariel asked me what a vacuum was,
like an outer-space vacuum. I sort of knew
but gave a bullshit answer. The smartphone
is trying to kill bullshit but
the human mind perseveres.
For the truth to seem true now
it has to be more interesting.
We edit pictures of rainbows.
We make elaborate excuses for
not showing up. We present one life,
and present yet another.
And if someone really did throw
their pay stub into the ocean,
and it really did stick to a rare, striped iceberg,
we’d have to be on a ship
in the Antarctic to see it, when mostly
I sit in my bedroom and imagine
people walking around villages
during the Middle Ages, their feet caked
in mud—each of them privately knowing
that heaven would one day hold them.