American Culture · Collection · Contemporary · Poetry

Paul Guest

Poem Written To Replace Another

There was a long sentence I wanted to say
in the dream, about life in America,
about the literature of apocalypse
or living in caves, or living within earshot
of trains. Which is to say I don’t
recall a thing that I dreamed last night,
the color of anything, the tenebrous custard of clouds,
the water that fell in shapes
from the elm trees. Really, what I’m thinking
tonight is there is nothing
in all the flat world which would satisfy me.
Not food and not love and no
Epicurean kink involving both
and in this I am trying to feel only
a little sad. Slightly broken.
Returnable, still, even to the ones I loved,
their darling, imperious airs,
their hair in careless garlands
announcing one more morning or one last.
They went about in the immediacy
of dreams. They said, or did not
say, I am the tacit light of the stars.
A long time it took meto make sense of that
and longer still their absences,
which felt like nothing
of the sort, though through them I could hear
trains warning the miles
of their torturous approach.
It seems beautiful,
to think now of that sound
which is all immensity and inevitability
and other abstractions
which only call to mind
everything that is too easy to be forgotten:
that winter is not endless
or without charm,
at least for those who find it charming,
and I am not one,
hovering beside the thermostat
with a safecracker’s impenetrable intent.
Love, it is cold out there,
is not what I mean
with every adjustment of the worn dial,
but I might say it,
were you to ask,
stranger who doesn’t know me at all.

Paul Guest, My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge. (Ecco; 1St Edition edition November 11, 2008)

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