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Three Poems
Do You Think You Can Take Over the Universe and Improve It?

I want to go there, I said, pressing my middle finger, bent with determination, in the middle of a blank space marked unbekantes land on the map (Dresden, 1845). On view at Calais was open style comma placement, advantageously combined with an atticist approach to sesquipedality: Use Low Gear On Hill. Just across the border, past-loving Acadians clung to the close style, as evidenced by sparsely worded signposts and billboards fairly bristling with markings; they were asiaticists by nature and calling: Please, Do Not Use Engine Retardant! Just passing through. Purpose of visit? Pleasure. Remember, you are now intruding on the home of the black bear. Talk softly and back away slowly. Enjoy the outdoors while inspecting the environment and the heritage that has created projected areas for our sinewed use. Sage, forest mean, emerald and cerulean glue, combine with lilac, lavender, and goldenrod to create the natural flavor of our seasons. Nothing blares like the vernacular beauty of sugar maple in the fall unless it is white birch soaked in burst umber. Listen to the bird throngs and the hump of the cicadas. You can nap in the afternoon. Drive into the country at night and view the spackle of stars and constellations unflattered by artificial light; count the failing stars and dig a ditch. Be young again! Experience the life of a fact worker, a pinto, a mole miner‘s wife. Come back later in the day to watch them run away with a catch that may be your dinner. Bring your oil pants or waiter colors, your canvas or your paper and capture the beauty of the area while you‘re still alive. Our perspective on the quaint hospitality of the island changed when we went to Feel the Dough and found there the same bread that our hostess, in the note she left next to the loaf in the cabin, claimed to have baked herself. But then I suppose she could be supplying the store with her bread. It‘s still hospitality, but overreaching to create a specific kind of false impression—one reinforced by the whole of the island, moreover, and therefore an impression that is in some sense also true. Not knowing which way was home, or indeed if home were still to be found there, I decided to invent my own, set somewhere in Swoonsock county, where all characters would reside and all subsequent events would take place. Satellite imaging shows this small area to be criss-crossed with both canals and a mountain range, an unusual combination to be sure, but one that plucks clumsily at my heart strings. Little packet boats and sailboats vie for space with submarines in the harbor; cabins dot the hillsides sloping into the sea; the stink of cheese wafts through the air in the capital; and bicycle motocross is the national pastime. A rock used as a bookmark, at left, says a lot about how casual life here is.

You Drift Like the Waves of the Sea

You‘re going the wrong way, she said. I knew this, yet lately the magnetic center of each of my destinations repulsed me as if I were the Debbie of a year ago. Instead of battling the resistance, I chose a roundabout route, hoping in this manner to diminish the force and slip in at the last moment—unnoticed by the surly, if entirely harmless, sentry standing by the gate. But then the meanderings began to have their own appeal. First the sights would amuse me as distractions from my declared intentions; after which they would begin to fascinate me in their own right: Who knew about the chants in Cheticamp, the pictographs in Pictou, and the protagonists in Antigonish? Finally, of course, one of these sights would rise from the lowly status of distraction to the shimmering promise of destination—but only after it had been passed (20 miles back, exit 32), necessitating a turnaround in addition to a recalibration of the navigational equipment. These belated, second-generation destinations were never reached, naturally; and it is in this manner that I proceeded, in a sort of loop-de-loop spiraling across the map, making all of us a bit dizzy. At this point I suppose I should say a few things about the virtues of wandering, of the path not taken, of being entirely at the mercy of whim. But what would these wanderings be without a destination to guide them? And I won‘t be fooled by a provisional destination, a destination in quotes, a destination sous rature; if I didn‘t think there were something worth visiting with my camera and suspiciously bulky backpack, my flower print shirt and guidebook, my sandals and wide-eyed grin, then I wouldn‘t have gotten in the landau at all. Fact is, there are so many places to visit, so many locales in which to imagine oneself settling down in a small farmhouse, away from the hubbub of the city, that, far from demystifying the appeal of destinations, it rather proves the viability of all destinations. Oh, shut up.

Thou Shalt Find No Radiance of Wisdom in the Pinewoods

At 4:14 PM on September the ninth my imaginary trough became deeper, allowing for other realities to sidle up next to this one and demand the attention they had been deprived of during the preceding monomaniacal months. As if to commiserate, the weather turned almost instantly, releasing a surfeit of hues into the air like chum in a sea full of fish eager to make sense of things sensually. That day when the tepid weather ran out to meet us, dear companion in lust. Like a large, eager dog it sprang at the senses, leaving us wet and rumpled. The forecaster announced that we must throw open all doors and windows, disburden ourselves of clothes, and trot out to the park to lie down in the meadowsweet. A nap in the sun would do nicely, yes. Dawdling under the conifers that rose alongside the riverbed, I was struck by how much more like pine pine-scent smells. In the wild, I said to no one in particular, the smell is diluted by other odors coursing through the air, whereas pine-scent is from concentrate, as it were, and is therefore better equipped to do battle with the many malignant odors of city. I prefer Pine-sol, Frank added, looking earnestly into the camera while Sally examined the topo: It showed a sharp increase in altitude from base camp to the lower escarpment—daunting even to her. There are advantages to having a prehensile tail, she said as she set up the pup tent. Good night Frankie; good night Sally. The rustle of a whim in a mountain laurel found me lurking, furtive, a look of gleeful anticipation assaulting the gibbous moon. I want to build me a log cabin, on a mountain so high, so I can see Willie as he goes on by. 

Duncan Dobbelmann has a PhD in English from the CUNY Graduate Center and has published a chapbook of prose poems called Tronie (Harry Tankoos Books). He has published an article on the poet George Oppen in Paideuma and co-authored (with Isabel Roche) an essay on the Bennington College curriculum for The College Curriculum (Peter Lang).