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Poem Called “The Lie” After the Poem by C. K. Williams from Which It Takes Its Last Two Lines
                                                                                    for Charlie

You are in the field         your socks slipping
into your shoes under the heat-lamp of the sun
the woods winking     the cool of the trees stuck to
your destination as you tick off transgressions

The man behind you says a mélange of mirages
and again    a mélange of mirages   liking the sound
A turkey buzzard surveys the tree line
nettles and stingweed           scrafing seeds

You once plied a boyfriend with drink
like a pirate extolling the gangplank
you used Mexican as a noun       shame even now
ignites the chickweed at your knee     It must

be one o’clock         heat flares from the heat-lamp
Are there field mice he says under our feet
& multiple gyres of the banging black flies      hoppers trapeze
from the grass       speech that is white (ashen) speech ––

like that afternoon         cameo summer in October
I must have been a senior in high school              soon
looking to leave       a-heel over heels for Tom
who worked in a quarry          Now I remember arms  

beard       kindness       an Econoline      but that afternoon
knowing my mother and brother soon would be home
Tom and I swung out the screen door        and struck
into swamp woods at the end of the street

When you think of white do you think of Rembrandt
in darkness          pockmarked     a sieve or a monkfish
Ahead now     ahead then:       ash        scrub pine        shade
and Penny –– then twelve        then my brother’s sole friend

then the body I knew best outside of my own     whose
fur was still full            with her striated mane          
her funnel nose       whose name I’d come up with
when she was a pup –– Penny came too        

Obliviousness       from oblivisci    to forget
One thing led to the next     
On a dry knoll Tom took off his shirt
and I unzipped                                            less

a lamp     the hazed beam slipped horizontal—
You ticking away         your hand in a tassel
other batting the hoppers                  in full sun
won’t imagine               I understand

Dusk in October       even in heat       has
dénouement at its center      You’re hearing the man
who is singing       behind you     
Before we headed back we called and called           

she must have gone home      and turned
without yarn         without clue      retraced our steps         
At the driveway Tom left                              
                                                                        I went in ––

Now at the wood’s edge the cool cools you
dark switches the lamp          the man takes your hand
folds you to him        your damps a solder yet untested      
Adults              you hear the turkey hawk stoop
and land on the branch nearby of a birch      carry on ––

Horse with its blinders             cell self-selected
fist that clasps straw    a miser refuting
the bounty without it              that night for hours
up the street I         heard voices call Penny
saw flashlights like kliegs in the trees

Oblivion that made you     hopper from the
hand you swing    the cool curiosity of sight     
the sound of a man’s laughter        scatter
as one would with a self which savagely resists:
this amputating, this assailing, this self-slashing


Susan Wheeler is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Meme from the University of Iowa Press which was shortlisted for the National Book Award, and a novel, Record Palace, published by Graywolf Press. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Witter Bynner Prize for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she teaches at Princeton University.