Three Poems, by Michael Kinnaird.
the expectation carved
contentment found at l
ast by chemical means
manipulated neurons d
issolving in dissipation
wrapped in black comf
ort lulled into hypnogo
gic embrace all movem
ent quelled by sweet fa
tigue and nameless co
mpanion blocking any
exit into the aisle wed
ged between the wind
ow and the sleeping g
irl wrapped feel the in
ertia of the fall begin i
nevitable descent dark
ride down time for a n
The image of you standing next to your stone,
Facing west, facing town, the breeze gentles your hair,
Your eyes reduced to fever points, the evergreen dark humps
Poised to screen this broken garden from the view of passers-by;
A quarter-mile now, striding swift along the inter-state,
Occasional headlights loom but fade too quickly for anyone to be certain,
Shoes slapping asphalt the way they did as you hurried down the hospital
To have your lungs drained again before the holiday celebration
All the way to the abandoned store, over-grown, deteriorated,
Trees reach through the window holes, block the wounded entrance
To this ancient social hub, you push through, creep above the splintered
rat-gnawed wooden floor
Around the old bar, the counter where they had the salted pretzels and the
On into the back room, down the hall, right then left, standing still once
more, nestled in the corner,
Hidden by shadow, just the toe of one shoe illuminated by moonlight
breaking through the branches,
The unrepentant myth stands sentinel for the second image to burst savage
through the foliage door,
Round the corner, tripping, falling, smashing into the back room to activate
The softclod sound of an unused voice, croak:
'take a drink out to your mother.'
The hissed assertion in response, cold indictment,
Acid phrase that might be whispered
To a shadow in a tortured room,
Fiercely, with the whole heart of an angry child,
'you were the good one,
you were supposed to be the good one.'
I love autumn, I love the colored leaves, the shortened days, the cooler winds, how people start putting on sweaters and walking faster, how the whole world (or this hemisphere, anyway) seems to go into shut-down mode, and time is of the essence. It's been noted many times how the seasons of the year stand as a metaphor for our lives. the bursting energetic spring of youth, the hot labor and purpose of adulthood, the detached fall of our later middle-age, and the winter of our senescence.
Today I am a man in his autumn years enjoying the world in the autumn of its year; thus connected, I struck out to experience those two worldly pleasures which continue to thrill me with the same excitement as they did when I was very young: books and food.
I first went to my favorite bookstore, where I found an issue of a science magazine describing how cosmic black holes may very well be of a fluid nature. Always interested in what those madcap boys in their white lab coats are up to, and ever a sucker for a good yarn, I acquired this publication. I wondered to myself once again about the irony involved in considering the unprovable speculations of mathematicians part of "science", while the unprovable speculations of anyone born before Francis Bacon are considered "metaphysics" or "religions." It's always seemed to me that the Biblical adage: "we walk by faith, not by sight" is less an instruction for righteous living than it is a simple statement of fact concerning the human condition: we're all driving in the dark with one working headlight, and we can't agree on how to read the map—it's a wonder we ever get anywhere. Pretty much everything we do requires some measure of faith in something, even if it's the electric company. Can anyone really explain to me why a refrigerator works?
Thus armed with challenging reading material, I proceeded to my favorite Oriental buffet, where I fell to eating virtually everything in sight. Although it's difficult to consider as purely "oriental" any selection of food that includes deep-fried chicken strips, apple pie, and white gravy; the family running the place are all from Chicago; and the Oriental music playing on a continual loop is from a tape that can be purchased at the bookstore I just left; nonetheless, the food was good and the staff courteous, at least in English—when I press my bulk through the front door of their establishment and they begin laughing and chatting in Mandarin, I'm sure they're discussing what a good tipper I am.
Well-read and well-fed, I began the brief return trip to my comfortable little apartment on Avenue G. The wind had begun to become very gusty, and when I was about a block from home, my truck was engulfed in some sort of whirlwind that seemed to be traveling the exact pace and in the exact position as I was traveling. I was the only vehicle on the block, driving slowly with the windows down, and for about twenty seconds there were thousands of leaves being picked up by the wind and swirled around and inside the cab of my truck. It was as if I were inside a giant moving snow globe that had been shaken, except instead of snowflakes, it was filled with leaves of all kinds of colors. It was tremendous.
There are a lot of opinions and a lot of debate about the purpose and meaning, if any, of humanity, or life, or existence. Part of my ever-changing position on this topic is that whether it's a God-given faculty, an evolved characteristic, both, or neither, it is simply grand that we have the capacity to experience innocent appreciation of the beautiful complexities and random coincidences of the world around us; that we live in a world where a few thousand leaves can get together for a brief dance just for the fun of it; that if we're lucky we get to see it, if we're luckier we get to be part of it, and if we're most lucky we know some people with whom we can share it.
As a character in one of my favorite science fiction books said: "Is this a great universe, or what?"
About the words "innocent appreciation" in the last paragraph of "Pleasant Autumn", the author responded to a query from our editor: "I was referring back to the swirling leaves described earlier in the piece, and how that was enjoyed directly, with little or no 'mental filtering' or self-indulgence at the time, as a child might enjoy something; as opposed to the more pretentious/self-abusive enjoyment of a scientific magazine article, or the over-indulgence at a buffet. I had set out to enjoy certain things, but had accidentally stumbled upon a more authentic enjoyment/experience by virtue of a simple chance."
Michael Kinnaird's work has appeared in many issues of Offcourse:
Issue #5, Fall 1999 After the Sandwich
Issue #7, Summer 2000 "Collecting skulls" and "The Secret Life of Carousel Horses":
Issue #11, Fall 2001 Three Poems
Issue #14, Summer 2002 On the Eighteenth Anniversary of your Imminent Destruction,"
Issue # 17, Summer 2003 Interim, Two Poems
Issue #18, Fall 2003 Two Poems
Issue #20, Summer 2004. Two Poems,
Comments? Tell us!
Back to Offcourse home page