Winter 03

Vertigo (3)


A hawk circling from nest to high rise is not a character and
stalking prey is no insurance against drought. We describe weeds
in water as graceful. The hermit crab scuttling by is said to have a purpose.
On foot, across town and back before daylight to free a leap of faith,
we watch the carp eat its own whiskers and remark, how lovely. We feel
knocking on glass will entice the creatures behind it, that acknowledging
capture will ease its terms. Shortcuts are just a way of getting things done,
however, and fall under concept rather than history. In truth we have
any number of scrolls available to show you listing homes without hearths
if you will provide the bardic trappings. We flew the contractor down
to inspect our dream and she unconvinced us about our future. Risk cut apart
censure until the fiasco inside was revealed as a challenge to be
caulked and sanded then resold. The deep and broad qualities of our
particular malaise belong to the year in which we were born. Or do they
spring from a doomed arrangement of doormat and endtable? Either way
progress sticks in layered paint. The untenable course has been taken so often
that new deals sink into existing channels no matter how you steer,
whether you lean toward the ground in an acute angle or completely
stop before turning. I sometimes see us as rowhouses, held up by our
entanglements. Before us a radiant new light has come alive in paper snips
scattered like snow, forming a geometric vision of what bewilderment
might resemble. Someone up ahead, far away and anonymous
will gather the scraps in the eye of a swirling wind that will keep us
in place. Its outskirts are knives sharp enough to separate us from the
burden of ourselves before there is time to notice any change in our
walk. A torn-apart roof is one clue linking fits of reason to fits of tears.
Courage, honor—these and a handprint must be investigated. Once done,
nobody will ever expect you to turn floodlights from intruders again.
You recollect the smell of coffee but not its taste, follow it lemminglike
into allotted time away from answers. Of course there was a moon
and everyone had sleeves pushed above their elbows as they marked off
pleasure in paces. We were all tired of lifting bellows and fanning flames,
balked at the prospect of conversation. So many balconies are available
for encounters. In the elevator I imagined seeing you again but silently,
became a person on the corner watching you without investment.
As a result, that person stands taller and dismisses her aching elbow along
with any questions about fruitful, pleasant times. If nobody is present
to fathom a distance, does it exist? Moving into that elusive, ten thousand
step day, I arrange myself into a more personable version of her. A lure,
your laugh, a red feather tossed to land aglow on the winter sidewalk.


Vertigo (2)


A Rare










Beth Anderson is the author of The Habitable World (Instance Press) and Overboard (Burning Deck, forthcoming). Recent work has appeared in New American Writing, 26, and Five Fingers Review. Her poems are included in The Best American Poetry 2003 (Scribner) and An Anthology of New (American) Poets (Talisman House). She lives in Richmond, Virginia.