Landscape without Apology
Think how the boys might appear on an evening without
wind, coats unbuttoned. Think of the perspective
of the fig tree, branching out, the cityscape
in its metal armor. The invisible drone.
Every hand sometimes fights itself,
clenched in the springtime, trying not to destroy
the yellow roses. Think of what this struggle looks like
from above. The remove, the refraction,
the mathematics of horizons.
That there can be multiple horizons.
That there can be multiple
selves. Inside a body. And so all the selves inside
each boy walking outside the city. They are
a city in themselves.
They are the numerous seeds
inside the fruit, the figs gathering heavy.
Or they are the birds waiting, waiting with
their mouths. Unbuttoning
their stomachs. Think what instances of want
the drone must see. How the lizard jumps
from the garage to digest the cricket. From the air,
life looks pretend. The drone could push the boys around
into toys. Arrange them into a Brueghel scene.
Think about how someone would paint the boys around
the girl. Think how their selves rise up
in their chests, trying to escape. Yes, think
about the girl. One has to think about
the girl. One has to think about the girl
without the boys above her. On, in.
She is creating a room in her mind. She digs
a place for herself outside of her body. The drone
observes her, is thus complicit in all things skin.
It could hook her, lift her up on little puppet strings.
It could cut them off, make nooses. It could
get closer. Nothing wants to get any closer.
Think how it is easy to apologize for
evil. How moving one’s lips
makes one feel less lonely. When, tired
of all the things a body can do,
one wants to unlearn. Forgive.
One builds devices to get farther
from landscapes, farther from human
on human. One says we are saved
by these technologies of distance.
One does not want the girl to be a girl
with a body. One wants her to be a stump, a doll
with her head ripped off, no distinguishing
features. No mouth to be filled again, again.
But one must think of the girl. Without the boys,
or the long blackness of a cricket’s final note.
Without the mockingbird mimicking
the neighborhood cat in heat. Without its blood
that’s been on the doorsteps. Blood, unnoticed,
on the hoods of cars warming up for a brief commute.
Without all that, think how she turns into something
else, holds rocks in her palm to hold her down.
Corey Van Landingham is a Wallace C. Stegner Poetry Fellow at Stanford University, and the author of Antidote (Ohio State University Press). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, The Best American Poetry 2014, Best New Poets 2012, Kenyon Review, Narrative, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.