poem by Robin Carstensen


The name is Moose, not Bruce—Marcy’s Yorkie,
it occurs to me at five thirty-four a.m. when I’ve been
awake for hours, watching faces of friends evolve
and dissolve. Photos of Marcy and me in Arkansas
one summer, in front of that fish house with a cock
in its name. What was the title, just a cock in it,
but Moose—how does the name arrive, slip back in,
something missing found? Was it back some images
ago, when I was thinking: should have raised that bet
with two aces in the hand, but I was gentle with friends
learning, and why, when friends go on and on, forget
to come home. Or is that me? Displacing myself.
Things run out, like the glasses at Aaron’s going-away,
so I drank vodka punch in a coffee cup with the state
outline of Alaska. The host had a host of coffee cups,
like all good Americans, both of which don’t ever run
out but grow like the Catskills in kitchen cabinets,
until they take up all the room like pens in our desks
interpreting scripture—being fruitful, multiplying.
You want this cup, Aaron asked. It’s a free ticket
to a dream. I toss and turn over potential tickets, two
dozen cover letters and a recent job post for English
professor in Barrow, Alaska. Jobs are dragging feet
like skeletons in this “historically worst market” ever.
My furniture and clothes are disappearing piece
by piece to friends and neighbors; my house is slipping
under my fiercest grip, debt collectors wash up
on my phone every week, I’m running from the wave,
or crawling out of quicksand, stretching every muscle.
I kicked five men’s asses tonight at Füssball
where Phil and Alan called me a beast, which felt good
and solid as me slamming the ball into the pocket,
hitting my aim. The satellite map of Barrow shows
stark green elongated ovals, one labeled Middle Salt
Lagoon. There are no trees, and even my knees wonder
how much cold they could bear beneath the great
hovering Artic. Maybe the world is not my oyster
after all but a giant blue Man of War poised to swallow
us. But I’m a beast who won’t drown lightly
like Kate Winslet in Titanic, waving goodbye,
“I love you” as her head disappears beneath the frothy
deep for fuck’s sake. I could still make a smooth landing
on Top of the World. It doesn’t have to be Barrow.
I could read every book on my shelves. I could be needed
somewhere, like a word, a warble, something missing
heralded. I could replicate images that have waited for miles
and miles in the crystalline, untrammeled absence
of expectation so clear and sharp, they never fade. Wait
for the moose I’ve never seen but imagine is unrepeatable.