ESSAY MEANS TO TRY

A golf course, a prison, a waste
water treatment plant, six gas stations,
a dollar store, a BBQ-Beer-Barbershop
store, two Baptist churches, one mega
church with a neon sign that flashes,
What’s Missing In C-H – – C-H? UR!
a Quaker Meeting House, a women’s
and children’s shelter, which I don’t think
is supposed to have a sign, Whistle,
so the women and children might actually
be safe inside, and signs for the Department
of Correction and the Department of
Sanitation and the Department of Family
and Children’s Services, and for three days,
Whistle, a small hunched falcon on the west
wire above the paved wash-out labeled
Walnut creek, and dozens of brittle lawns
are what I drive by on my way to and from
each day, Whistle, lately crying.  My friend
who has had the shutters slam closed too
many times around her says, if you’ve been
crying for more than two weeks already,
you may need help to stop. And my almost
friend except he scares me says, this is
exactly what Empire wants you to do,
sit around crying or sit around writing,
playing the small-time artist agitator role.
Already during these two weeks of crying
I’ve purchased seven books each of which
felt important to own and taken one hundred
and forty vitamins and filled three prescriptions,
none to help with the crying. I’ve waited
patiently or impatiently in countless lines,
Whistle, sometimes crying, I’ve waited
for news of loved ones such as you.
Crying is how we enter the world, Whistle.
We all come by sea, we all come
by storm, we all tear apart and are torn.

***

Lisa Olstein is the author of three books of poetry from Copper Canyon Press: Radio Crackling, Radio Gone, winner of the Hayden Carruth Award; Lost Alphabet, a Library Journal best book of the year; and Little Stranger, a Lannan Literary Selection. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Nation, American Letters & Commentary, and Boston Review. Recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Centrum, she is the lyricist for the rock band Cold Satellite, fronted by acclaimed songwriter Jeffrey Foucault. She teaches in the MFA programs at UT Austin.</div>
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