Sample Poem: I Leave Myself
after Tadeusz Nowak
I leave myself — leave my body like smoke
through the gnarled and inelegant chimney of my ear,
or rise as a spirit from the vault of my chest.
No. I leave myself. Salt leaves, or is left by, the sea,
something of old ironwork
leaks from the end of a long tool like a hoe
left lying in perfect stillness on the ground
or leaning against a gate:
where iron nails attach the iron end to the wood
seems the likeliest place for such a loss, or escape:
among the flakings of rust and spider shit.
Dogs lean out from the boundaries they guard
towards the musk I exude, exhibit, which I am,
swirling the smell of the pigs in the woods
through a nest of hay, down to a kink in the river.
I’m not there, or anywhere else. There’s a raspberry bush
modestly covered in dust from the road, where yokels
carry heavy items down the road
in ten-legged, hesitant crab-step, kicking up dust:
sleepers, roof lead, a grand piano, their plans for satisfying sweethearts.
They happen to stop, pull the fruit and dust it
on their sleeves, in the air, blow on its absent fire to cool it.
Their searching fingers play a little jazz medley on my branches
like a cosmopolitan priest counting rosaries,
come to the country under a cloud,
staring absently into the bishop’s orchard
up through scented branches towards the open veranda
the man’s elder daughter disappears into the house.
He can hear her, then it isn’t true that he can hear her,
he only imagines it; it’s worse.
The suffocating heat under his cassock.
I sympathise madly but I am only a fruit tree
and he ignores me, kicks his heels
and pulls a dead strand of honeysuckle from the wall
with as much petulance as he’ll allow himself.
From the top of the telegraph pole above him
singing across continents about
matters it would be presumptuous to mention,
I can see a cloud of horsemen approaching.
I can see a haystack dreamed
in the murky cobalt of a
landscape reserved for dreams
and other untethered possibilities,
and beside it
two or three or four horses
in possession of their horsey selves,
reaching down stretching their stringy ropes
taking sugar lumps, the tarts, from a man
no older than I remember — which seems rather suspicious,
a heaven I imagined when I was in a self
that seems laughable, a mere heaven. I leave myself.
first published in New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 2007