Kai Carlson-Wee began writing poetry after finding a copy of Silence in the Snowy Fields on a dusty shelf in his grandfather’s cabin. He holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and will be moving to San Francisco at the end of the summer to begin a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.
— after Robert Bly
I felt the roof of my head break and clatter
to the floor. I felt the particles dance
in the empty and electric air, turning around in circles
like plastic bags caught in a draft.
I thought the river would swallow me whole,
and the seagulls would never stop sailing away.
Now the deer bones rattle on the bare wall.
The night winds rest and clouds
advance on clouds. Days fall back
inside themselves like water.
Now the river takes its color from the weeds
and my friends are half asleep
in their anticipated lives, dreaming in the vain styles
of their age, painting their childhoods
over their eyes, walking the ribbons
of highways like crows. Now my mind
moves back to my father’s Easter sermon,
walking alone in the dark garden,
lighting the trashcans on Division Street
on fire, watching the fat police lumber
to the flames. And my thirteenth birthday,
setting off flares in the train-yard, scraping my name
on the rust-lined door. What became
of those abbreviated years? Now they slump
inside these passing days like sand.
Now your face is hard to look at
when you sleep. Your words become like putty
in my ear. Now the cold hours wake me
in the night, the oak leaves fall and linger
in the wind, the swallows leave the shadow for the bridge,
and the carp float dead in the metal grates below.