My daughter, Sara, likes connect-the-dots,
and, by forming her own constellations
of meaning, she avoids math’s desperate
consequences. No one corrects her; play
is play—she has plenty of time before
the tyranny of algorithms and
facts determine her fate. It’s cold for an
October Wednesday. And despite my wife’s
recent handyman-work—she set the storm
windows, laid down weather strips, a new door—
the chill can’t be cheated from the rooms or
our bones. This Nebraska farmhouse is old.
I shiver then dodge work, play with Sara;
my at-home underwriting is back-logged.
There’s no denying every picture
has a story. Inside my desk I keep
a photo from somewhere in Iowa—
there’s a young married couple near a tree
and that big old tree has engulfed a plough.
It’s a popular photo, hardly art.
The story is that a farmer joined up
the instant he heard America had
declared war against the German Kaiser.
He leaned his plough into a sapling then
disappeared. Over time, wood devoured
the plough and now couples, newlyweds,
kiss and picture each other there. Such a
strange confluence, that picture, or maybe
I’m just odd—suggestions of swords, ploughshares,
love, of course death, or at least mystery;
it’s saying the same thing. There is something
very important in Iowa, a
metaphor, surreal, theoretical,
infinite, but it lacks in coherence.
An absurd correlation: tapestries,
worms without silk weaving wind-colored crows.
This morning, Sara colors her own lines;
my wife drifts over the horizon to work.
I sip coffee touched with Kahlua— warmth,
sweetness. I hug Sara, let the t.v.
mother her for awhile. And so I
return to my numbers and assessments.
With numbers I forget families and
abandon tenderness: keen, reductive
cool, a knife’s blade, cold judgment. My work calls
for nothing less. Out here, on the lonely
prairie, so many little things gather,
scatter, and almost touch…there is so much
here, but honestly, there is nothing here.
I haven’t been too drunk to realize
all the local stations have new weather women.
They’re hip/nerd types that, in a weird way,
satiate my more lunar desires—
what prophecy in their words, prognostications
of heat or thunder, can I believe them?
Why I don’t trust them? –they say heat
then there’s rain, or they say rain and it’s snow
and if there’s a big event in town,
they always say sun. Judas, I want to believe them, but
I’m ripped apart until my last breath.
Other purposes guide their truths—a forgivable
inexactness. And my adoration stems from there,
from their predilection toward destruction:
tornados, horizontal winds—sexy and terrible
they dance through a green screen of demise.
I want them; I love them all as I loved
the Disney princesses: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty,
the little mermaid—especially the little mermaid.
Her red hair, no voice—did she have a vagina?
I was in my twenties, and my love for that cartoon
was beyond sex ~ she was a Nietzschean passion
spiritualized: the ideal of sacrifice, a giving in, a dark trade.
Ariel took her body to the Devil’s pawn shop,
traded one part for something she wanted more.
I appreciate such bargains made away from light.
And as I walk outside, even though I was promised sun,
I feel better for getting wet, soaked to the bone.