VERNAL, UTAH Kerri Webster
I am never lonely there. I sling hash, groom
horses. Step from one life into another,
selves falling from me like fire-coats, like
kilowatts. Last night I woke from a cold
sweat: Vernal or never, Vernal or bust.
Have I mentioned how I'm not alone there?
I rent extra rooms to ornithologists
and sculptresses. They sigh in their pleasant
sleep. We take turns washing up.
"What the world likes is a bootstrap and locket."
Here is God, hazelnut
in one hand, Hey lady
in the other. His
And in this he shewed me a lytil thyng the quantite of a hasyl nott. lyeng in the
pawme of my hand as it had semed. And it was as rownde as eny ball. All observers
are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe. I
looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, 'What may this be?'
He perceived linguistic differences to have consequences in human cognition and
behavior. And it was answered generally thus,'It is all that is made.' We are parties
to an agreement to organize it in this way.
She thought the world
was made of paper: step
on the street,
When he says what he means
to do to my body, the sky
sinks into rangeland.
All the hotels in the universe
cannot raise it.
Having made my loneliness
my privacy, I don't remember
what to do with men.
Do you bathe them?
He says what he says about my inner thighs.
They still exist.
And God held out
his fists: guess
which. We stare.
Some see horses some see
crave a punishment
and a keeping.
She was afraid
when it rained—that
the city would dissolve
"She searched for a narrative that would explain why the world was being
Little ornaments: I forget
to speak all day
and poof!: something
turns up missing.
I buy a plumb bob
and a level.
I say your body
and look: it's still
around. I am seeing
how far down
"Should we stop and level things."
It's hopeless; it tilts,
this whole meridian.
I thought it might suddenly fall to naught for littleness.
It's quiet here.
The science of
locations, of creating names
"jars of pond water":
tell them slow down
a figurative expression for slow down.
Sleep the grease
we apply to our bodies
to ease from thinking.
I have my styrofoam, my pins.
The communal eye
marks how the pinprick sun
blots out the moon.
The private eye
wonders when the world
will catch fire.
And all is tired and all is tired and all sorts of matter
shall be tired.
Animals; the season.
We construct sadness
a temporary storage.
Not that I did not know fantasy; rather, that I reached
my life's equator with an understanding that certain
needs, when met, remove the necessity to dwell on either
past or future; that if I slept, for instance, without wedging
in the chasm between, day would remain sufficient. So
came the equator; I walked its pencil-line with arms
outstretched like a child on a railroad track, unencumbered
by husband or child, unmortgaged, tethered
to a certain region but otherwise content to land—
wherever. And landed in a brickworked city where she
dwelled discontent; she, whose fabulations centered on land
with proximity to water, grand houses, and moreover
the scouting of locations, the wiping of grime off leaded
panes that she might see in and countenance flocked
wallpaper. I have never owned most variety of kitchen
implements; at the time of this writing, own exactly none.
At the time of this telling, currents track winter in.
My needs were met with admirable precision by an old
riverman back West, and by the mountains themselves,
which showed me up as foolish whenever I thought
about linear time.
Because my dead were not yet dead, there was no need
to commune with them. I wanted to yell how the ballroom
would fall finally into the cellar, but, knowing uselessness,
sat on a bench and talked to a stray child and learned
the lock system by which the river remains level
as the barges displace tonnage—learned it so well that I might
even now as party trick construct the system in miniature
with a shovel, a common garden hose, and some toy boats.
In any regard, when I slept I dreamt, and thought, waking,
of a notion no bigger than that creditors might stop calling.
When no sleep came, I didn't think beyond the riverman;
when the prophets stared down from the walls in that
rented house, they seemed ill-groomed, not holy.
She always drove our expeditions, owing to my lack
of navigational wherewithal, plus the strong desire to stop
and collect bones for my pockets, or wade into the Mississippi
and let the river have its way with me, which enterprise
would have slowed us down considerably, currents being
a daft thing to collect—better stamps, figurines. So: in such
a manner and with only a little vandalism, we saw the finest
mansions the bluffs offered, harmlessly jangling
doorknobs, admiring the concept of tuckpointing, then drove
home, me to a bare apartment where what scarce visitors came
were generally compelled to stand through insufficiency
of chairs; her to a coffin of a house. It was the custom of
that country to nail the windows shut, for someone's protection,
that amulet of enclosure with which we are familiar.
What does that matter? Some do not distinguish the living
from the dead and so lived haunted. I should say
she held to signs, such as a thousand crows tunneling
suddenly from the sky meant fated love, a poor example,
whereas I believed in the reversal of subject and object
by scale's enactment on the figure, and a certain apocalypse
not so much foretold as crafted by large-brained monkeys.
I thought the burnt out church installed with a thousand lamps
(the number grows in telling) said something of simple
kindness, and that the airstream lodged in the birch-tops
spoke to a happily opiated maker, and that the temple
was just another purple, though I removed my shoes, of course—
which is all to say that I have never in all my half-life
stumbled upon a house and felt myself meant to inhabit there.
When I am lost—o frequently—I feel it neurological, not
god-driven; I pull over and call for help; I scan the landscape
for useful markers and, finding none, wonder at all our
foolishness, that—boy prophets or no—we should drag ourselves
across a continent and build waystations amid such flatness.
Sound is another oxygen. A pine cone drops on the roof
and tries to grow there, the Milky Way spreads like fat
between meat. In this world, there are shops, display cases
lined with the skins of yearlings holding gloves
lined with the skins of yearlings. I think fear our truest
food. A brick that says Hydraulic; Listo pencil leads; glass
macaroons; typewriter tins; the pods of poppies; wisdom
teeth in specimen bottles. Some things I wear around my
neck, but don't pretend to know yoke from adornment.
Water which previously pushed into tusks froze
ragged, littoral species—shy, yolky—wintering
elsewhere. Fish were installed in the walls, including
the bearded catfish she so rightly feared. We ate and,
I think, tipped well; we saw a yellow house, we toured
a miniature holy village (blacksmith, aviary, pageantry,
prairie skirts, salad bar). I'm conflating episodes
like a plastic telescoping cup, those fairground prizes,
collapsing days together that I might open them up
and stretch them, knowing it does not matter
in the grand—she would say scheme, I would say
mishap—...it does not matter in what season we hid
from nuns, in what season I lined the windows
with elixir bottles, in what town we shopped the store
called Pendemonium, which had me happy for days, or
on what deck, sick with citronella, a good woman
misstaked fireflies for shooing stars and I saw finally
how misapprehension need not frighten.