The Boiler

Jim Redmond

FOR ALL THOSE I HAVE LOVED

sometimes my night sweats
deliver me

little flowers of salt pressed into the skin’s
verbatim appeal, but never back under

the body, a slow bloom, the brain is a lotus eater

and you are always too far, two or three beds over

in the infirmary

or the hotel room’s hasty ensemble

the half-way house

of my memory

a lease your name
has never touched

I can only remember
so little

from then

because of
the drinking
bad genes
bright fear of mine eyes

everything blurred back
into your face
which blurs last

I can only remember you as you were
all winter
without a coat

in a city where the water had gone to rot

where the public transit traveled the same imperfect circle

where the average police response time was 1 hour and 35 minutes

where we sat together beneath the body’s infinite regress
across Diego Rivera’s industrial star chart

in a museum that would be stripped piecemeal by private collectors

to cover the people’s debt

when we were both
still children
in that way that says

we don’t have to say it just yet do we

you without a jacket
trudging through the snow
to the Amtrak

and me now
looking through the closet
without the one I finally lent you

and always

the time you taught me to hold

the same difficult chords on the autoharp and strum slowly

and to not stop no matter the hurt

to L Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat”

again and again as a way of remembering

before you left us once more unannounced

on a night like tonight

with all of these calluses still humming


THE BLANK SLATE

The lives of amanuenses:

huddle of blanks above history;

the soft hands of the non-voting public

waiting for someone else to give say.

What do you dream of

when all day And God

said to me is whispered into

your handwriting? Does a different

darkling undo that ex nihilo?

Can you only unleavened

make haste of your mind

under cover of night?

And awake to the words like a wash

bowl where one does not see

their own reflection, but what

shall become each morning.

To know your name

is a name that will not

be remembered in the book of life,

but where you wrote

I Am that I Am will forever take fire.


FINAL PRESENTATION

What is the meaning of life, or death for that matter,
while I still have you here, 45 more minutes left of class,
and already the silence creeping in. And I wonder,
is it really just one, or are each of your own silences
a unique pinprick, a number on the diabetic test strip,
showing the blood sugar of this great “American” condition?
As Michael Foucoo might say, I’ve watched Forest Gump
three or four times now, but it only makes sense of its own time
if you see it on VHS [my emphasis]. I guess
I have an old way of seeing, shot through with Red Bulls
and Mario Kart, that this department continues to deem unsatisfactory,
but when the professor explained the emotional limits
of kitsch, how it created a new kind of silence in art,
and which way could we possibly go from here,
I thought, perhaps the indigenous peoples of Halmahera
(where approximately half of the population is now Muslim
and half Christian) we briefly mentioned three months ago
could teach us something more true about this impasse.
Perhaps we should be thinking in terms of the Wikipedia page
for dialectical materialism. Perhaps the difference
between ritual and politics at these or any other fine Subway locations
will help us refine our thesis statement, now that I’m noticing,
in a completely new way, the Black Forest Ham
I’m about to take another bite out of. But before I begin,
I would first like to tell you about my scholarly method,
which I’ve taken mostly from my third-grade teacher
telling us to free write about corn for hours every day,
her eyes all homogenized like a warm glass of milk,
as she led the grand march across the school year,
slowly filling up a large map of Michigan with the paint
of our tiny handprints, where instead of The Pledge
of Allegiance, a moment of silence was to be given each time
we were told to look upon our own works, which mostly
meant a new and terrible kind of self-awareness,
the critical mass of 27 eight-year-olds’ internal monologues
leaking into one another. Should we not give
that same knowing look here, along with whatever
that vaguely Nazi sounding guy’s name was from somewhere deep
in the dregs of our course pack, knowing too that there is
nothing outside the text? Should we not “dash,”
as one of the core objectives on the first page of the syllabi
indicates, “a few Lacanian mirrors against such rocks,
braid a Plato’s beard or two to Thelonious Monk, sneak a little
Caesar into our word salads,” with those same small,
unwashed hands we started out with? Sure, such an approach
could be said to lack any number of things, to include
etc, etc, as well, but at least I have some handouts
of the first giant panda to give a live captivity birth in over 20 years
that you can look at before I move on to the second slide
of my PowerPoint on this very important topic.

_________________________

Jim Redmond received his MFA from the University of Michigan. He’s lived in Michigan his whole life, but now he’s in Texas. He’s currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of North Texas. Some of his poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Blackbird, BOAAT, Redivider, PANK, and TYPO, among others. His chapbook, Shirts or Skins, won one of Heavy Feather Review’s chapbook prizes in 2013.