I3 Dixon

I wanted to go to the waterfront,
sure, I wanted. Someone on the boat said
This is a girl who knows what a poem
is supposed to feel like

only there wasn’t a boat. We were
walking the ice to Mackinac, we were
Omaha up to the ears. I wanted to know
who you were, so I learned how to read.

Captain said Go down into the belly and flip
the second switch, and that was what it meant
to know sound in terms of shape—
the body in clothes or other consonants,

any open-closed mouth—because
before there was shape there was the ocean,
which was the thing I wanted, and that part
turned out to be true.

He says you brought the smoke in with you this time
Because smoke can become a knitted scarf some days
Or the blue silk handkerchief in your front pocket
Though usually it doesn’t, usually you come in without it
And don’t do it again. So many planets were pulled
Into alignment, and we did not talk about it happening
Because we were suddenly still not dead. I think occasionally
About driving my gray Chevy into the little pond on Holt
Road where geese go to bring the planet smaller geese
And lead them crooked across the street in school hours.
It’s an easy task, the more I think of it, the road’s quick
Curves and soft shoulder, water up to the neck. I could
Say my eyes got caught in Christmas lights, my thoughts
Inside of any old, sad song on the radio, how they play
Old, sad songs at night on the radio when no one is awake
To be listening to the radio, all the DJs quiet somewhere
No one else has ever been to coding messages to one
Another across an unknown galaxy or space. The more
I think about it, too, I have begun to carry smoke around
Like constant, steady breath or the nearly invisible coat
Of hair that comes with any skin and is so much a part
Of skin that it is safe to say that skin is more than just
The clumping up of individual, moving cells but also a clear
Forest, or, since I bother to shave most mornings, at least
A patchy set of woods. Whichever way I wear it, I have begun
To carry smoke, and it could very well be the reason why
The houseplants are dying, dying not in the way we blame
Winter for but by something more akin to leprosy or the levels
Of rashes too unsettling to show in slides in the back chapters
Of the medical textbooks your grandfather gave to you
So that you might understand how horrible and ugly it can be
To be alive. Tell me, how can I begin to apologize for that?
Maybe if I drive my gray Chevy into the little pond on Holt
Road, where the geese have come and gone by way of season
And the shoulder still is soft and soggy from the water crawling
Misty-eyed like planets through the grass up to the pavement,
And by some luck I can outlast the flooding, if I leave the window
Cracked enough to swim through in my white coat or by new
Chance the airbags float my Chevrolet to safety on the opposite
Good shore, I could walk the night to one of my old houses
Or to yours.
Kat Dixon is the author of the poetry collection Temporary Yes (Artistically Declined Press 2012) and a forthcoming novella, Here/Other. She lives alive in Atlanta and online, here.