Winter 03

Vertigo (2)


The tide of egress rolls over highways and their hinges to land,
wide-swinging testimony on the photogenic question.
In another state loosestrife might respond, tenaciously, impressive
and full. We like to own, and damn the perspectives checking
the sidewalks and kicking up sand. Progress drew a line from
side to side, absorbed habitation and wrung out the mop. Now rivulets run
past office towers so tall that summer can’t close them, and debris provides
ballast for contemplation of what the place was like before it was captured
and before you had to unpack all you own and repack it in order to go.
Brooks lead to ponds and ground encroaches. The terms empty and lot
cannot belong to us anymore, having been annexed by mendicants who
cast dice into the shallowest water where bets float north to south and
deciding is part of the hardest part. Housekeeping may remove
the structure suite by suite and bury salacious documents
in pyramid schemes. These have sprawled too far to fit into support
for local commerce. We watch them from the bank, their sharp geometry
shot through with plaque. The well-to-do processed down the avenue
past blind spots and dealt places, emptied and filled in round-robin-like
strides. We need a healing salve. It can be exhilarating or unsettled,
a rattletrap alongside a boulevard sending staccato through local hotels.
You think it’s a route and before you can blink, it becomes
a dream of reaching a house you once lived in but left, where you
first met the friend of a friend who became your beloved. Internal history
hesitates on the brink of shock, identifies the point at which the
past takes on a near-painful salience. Intent’s protection kicks in
behind mortar that holds having done nothing wrong
to saying so. Chronically vacant, broken vestibules boast windows
that repeat: you have done nothing wrong. And so we examine
as we pass, see ourselves in glimpses on the grandest streets and
on blocks barely converted into an address. The overheard transforms
back into driftwood as we move from tenth street over cobblestones onto
asphalt. Our plan threatened to combust as the trains crossed once more
sidling east where roads take on numbers and lose names. Replacing
dirt with pioneering examples, an absolute and perfect privacy
loses momentum before it can become ominous. The cares woven
into its spiny entryway are not based on stalemate. If we could learn
a system that requires our fealty but demands no contract, we might
agree to stay in it. Tenants drift by in irregular waves even as they find fault
with the construction of what they sign themselves into. We fear the last
hour will see scaffolding fail, and no fallen platform is easily revived.


Vertigo (3)


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.