Suddenly, Whistle, we wake to a flood
of it, waves of data from all directions
and given the years and years of silence
well beyond reasonable doubt, it’s not
unreasonable to wonder what new manipulation
this sudden rush of information might be.
As Kurt Cobain, a pain-shredded singer
from my youth, before he blew off
his head in a room over a garage adjacent
to a lovely house he owned and when he did
the radio station I favored broadcast
his voice for twenty-four hours straight,
supposedly said, just because you’re paranoid
doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
In a few months, Whistle, I’ll speak
to a large room full of inspired talkers,
the very best trial lawyers of the Pacific
Northwest region and in part I will discuss
the powers that both of our trainings in language,
different though they may be, prepare us
to apprehend and to deploy. Each in our own
way, Whistle, we are in love with language
and with information and with results and
with verdicts, too—me, too, if I’m being honest.
Busy and important and depended upon
each of us plows the field of our day.
Our obligations, Whistle, are impossibly
too many and possibly too few. Don’t bite off
more than you can chew. Love what you do.
There is so much we like to think we choose.
Some people believe we are born again and again
and that even this is a kind of decision we make.
A time of catastrophe provides an opportunity
for the acceleration of spiritual growth is
one take on the matter. That fear isn’t only
an echo from the past, but the future calling
is another. Maybe then this trembling,
Whistle, is both someone else’s and my own.
I sensed a sadness in the air over the entire block,
writes my friend upon returning home
from the protest, a great sadness in the air.


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.

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  1. Pingback: Issue Eleven, 2015 | Matter

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