Michael Burkard’s books include Envelope of Night, Unsleeping, Entire Dilemma, and My Secret Boat.
Nightboat Books will publish a book of poems in November, Lucky Coat Anywhere. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Syracuse University. His improvised songs are available at redhouseartradio.
small and smaller
for charles simic
dime store lingo
says make an
early choice between
my kiss and his -
a one-time detective
waits for a rare
bus - an overnight
waitress opens an
umbrella but just to
check it out - no
rain anywhere -
small car with almost
not even a driver
stops to pick her up -
small and smaller -
end of line
The Ice Harm
If it had been raining on the story I wrote the story would not have been so ruined. My mother knew I was in the 4th grade, that I had gotten myself more than halfway into the drawing when I decided this lonely dramatic setting is not going to work, and I added with little confidence a boat and even a guitar near the middle of the lake which I had intended to be the valley or the place where a dark or lonesome story could transpire. I was cold but correct.
The reported witch who was the art teacher at the time sensed more than I ever would what I was up to - indeed, today I am still overtaken by guitar shapes, but they are smaller, I commit to them simply and then get out of my way - the witch saw the frost at the window before any of us as children did - we didn’t know how good she would be at removing the ice harm from us.
I could have thanked her - would have, could have, wounded should have - instead - about forty years later - I am standing in a tired line in a bank.
My father used to run this bank, when banks could be run by only one person and a supporting staff of five or six and another five or six clerks. I am not nostalgic about the bank either. But I see the witch in another common line - and we meet - and I try to introduce myself.
She is in very good shape. I want to know where she lives. I think I want to send her a thank you sometime. But she is a recluse and misunderstands. I tell her I used to walk her street home - which is true - but now the truth seems lame. Everything has become a slow is. The ice is. It is winter. It is cold outside. The witch is on to some other possible selfishness of mine. The drawing is nowhere to be found. I is making no progress. I is dislocated.
A clerk opens and the witch is gone. Off to the races. Off to the bankbook. Off to the secrecy and small fingers of all investments and huddles. I dream I misremember the guitar above all other objects. A holy see-er tells me my checks are bouncing but there is a horse named “Blueboy” going off at 6-1 in the third race. The witch ceases all eye contact with me.
Hyphens and tanks belonging to the enemy army are forbidden in my own dreamy version of a “Forbidden City.” I is found with the Ace of Clubs in my desk as a bookmark. I am berated for being a “bookie.” I am a bookie I plead, but not the kind you think.
“The world is something not enough people dream of, one
Shouldn’t use the word dream & one shouldn’t use
The words should and shouldn’t” - Bernadette Mayer
Avis says something like this: that she has never had enough
“unto” - that when she grew up she always was adding and looking for
the extra fact: do unto others as you would have them do unto you
was coupled with this additional seeking of and if you do unto them
as you would do unto you they will then do unto you what you would
like them to do - she says “there was never enough ‘unto’ in my life” -
the world is something unto her stories -
the world is the moon attached to the stupid boat -
the stupid boat is in the stupid harbor under the stupid shadow of the
stupid rock-like-moon tonight
white men realize as hunters after only thousands of years
that deer live according to the lunar calendar or rhythm
this stupidity pleases me but now i am more afraid for the deer
at this door a lunar book dangles from the door
to indicate to those living by lunar calendars
this is a safe harbor
we are not so stupid as some mostly white men
- when you die
you will think of this and your darkling eyes
and your darling blending in with the landscape
of this above all snowy and unexpected towns -
the moonophobic will be secrets:
secret milk bottles
secret people at wakes and rituals for secret reasons
i am your door
i am your fault
i am your lunar shoulder
i am a member of your lunar family
moon unto moon
small paintings on paper
what were you hoping for?
what were you trying to do?
these are some of the questions
she had for her mother
or her mother had for her -
one did not know the other
had the same questions -
you were tapped by the daughter
as a friend
and asked to help
but you yourself hesitated -
trapped by words before and after
you could not see starlight
lending much of a hand
or a moon or a down thing
to help them