ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems from Twenty States, by Robert Lietz


     Uploading scenes, then dual backups as precautions
when that's finished, the morning's what it is,
measuring, so not to lose the least, a restaurant in Santa Fe
or twilit block in Florence, Oregon, even the bears
signs warned might shadow midnight strolling through
Buck Meadows, minutes from El Capitan, Half-Dome,
Bridal Veil, nights populated by misfit shapes and shades
we could not be less prepared for, as if gear or gaze
or love signed on for them.  I think of that ledge, ledges,
of the gas-stops, each retreat, receipt, each
web-reviewed and recommended supper and the nightcaps,
blankets tucked to chins, until breakfasts woke us again
to winter spring, the costs of hours ahead, and the surprises. 
Switchbacks through pines, dropping away to Pacific
blue and mossed sea-stones, crumbling stones and foam,
displaying the ways light's likely to be known, so
we sense our shares in this, the slap, spray, the crumbling
well-being location sponsors, and the seals sunning,
pleasuring in or indifferent to sea-slosh, ocean winds, while
the seal young test pools between beach contours, black
stone where the spray's gentled, safe, from the black foam
-silvered edge of a commotion, even as mothers lounge
and fathers dream a meal.  How should a day be more than
this, even a day that's come to be, and how many other
days this afternoon, when the snapped pics and unaltered
caught coordinates seem real, the brim-shaded, hand
-shaded light, and the gaze, beyond this rail-perched gull,
compounding influence, brought round by children
then, running short-cuts off the boardwalk through spring
flowers, ignoring what might be shading there, where
the land's still cool despite full light, to snap, sting, or
maybe fail to prosper, when some hurried souls
ignore the warnings, as if reading were much
     too much to ask from them.



                                                                                         Deriving Arizona

     Bryce, Sedona, slots south of Page.  Twenty states. 
Yosemite, Napa, and Sonoma.  The full range
and regional inflecting, and the coast north from Mill Valley,
Fairfield, to Florence, a common / complementary
universe in scale, and, in its beholding, Intention, layering
west light to add its finish to the canvas, a world among
the staggering worlds where night falls, where the first Mind
broods, at home in the stirred interest.  What's
there to make of this parched earth, these carved wedges
of continent up-thrust, if not this flux, necessity
prefigured, and desire spared among the bordering abstractions,
reserved in collective hues, miles in love, Elizabeth,
with eyes and ears to matter, and this Enclave, "Ansel,"
played as planned for seasons, a half-decade spent
with study guides, schools of equipment, in flash-mob
residencies, we'd joke, deriving Arizona,
and these paint-smear casts, remnants of lost forest,
dry cuts, dry ice, and, in the spring light, crops,
a nearly imagined chanting, where
Intention, busying about the project, and
our minds, inspirited, in service,
     speak to it.


                                                                                           The Made World

     Could this have been anything but spiritual, where strategy,
whim, and an inflection mediate,
so that we consider it, or an evening in Coeur d'Alene,
how an image itself makes do, resonates,
and family responds to such reports, twilit April meals, to
the May snow and consequence, invitation,
composition, lavished in rouge, mauve, in last abandoned
hues, by a Mind above, within, around,
beyond making its own case for coming into matter, not
to be praised so much, knelt before or worshipped,
but approved maybe, first source, sharing a nod, wink,
the humor as agreed, so we get the feel of it
and the made world, even our own accomplishment,
with a cup of wine or two, the late news
indulged in an Oregon motel, an Inn at Fairfield,
two nights ago, a lodge as we'll find it,
reserved for a night at Yakima,
its own acknowledgment.


                                                                                       Re-booting After All
     After a day at photographs, in moments relived if not
revisited exactly, we feel this flux,
ascending or descending to position, and this advantage
we might be better for, in any of twenty states,
beyond the bravado, brag, the rogues in Utah or west Texas,
if that's how the seasons get along, bracketed,
as they've seemed by months and other Ohio calendars.
There'll be this re-booting after all, nights
and familiar lights, house sounds for witnessing, the two
of us, Elizabeth, as if we had not been
anywhere, and months themselves had never coaxed us
to reporting, with regional guides, manuals,
and hardware extravagance, tones and atonements
say, such years as asked and such years
as replied to, pressed for reference, satisfied, not
to be mastered, mastered by,
so much as be apprenticed, to the impressions,
moods, addressing the accounts
and atmospherics, with twenty states aligned,
in overlapping ways
of being in the world, as if we'd been
anywhere but this,
but, always, together
     after it.



     You re-think the columns, stacking a sandwich
you can't wish down, except to feast accordingly,
on lives screwed up, discarded, or sworn to impulse,
immaturity, desire, alternative readings
you couldn't face or humor, once the cards were cut,
dealt, and smoke bloomed from the windows
visited, announcing the presence of men among
star-selves.  Here's a storyboard set off, 
earlier options exercised, and cold as the days ahead
might seem, a cold that matters in the tale, when
you imagine yourself in cargo shorts and golf shirts,
before the canyon burned or lava squeezed
through those two lanes at Yellowstone.  You sample
the beer and think on it, picked up
the night before you left from Gardiner for Jackson,
a night in Pinedale warming up for Laramie,
getting good at this, unloading what the night
and morning might require, transporting
gear through that spring snow, about the time
spring light might have had its fill
of snow pack the moon, for sure, had
not stopped counting on.


     There's no photograph, I admit, to speak for downtown
Laramie, the Buckhorn or Thai spot, and
none of the kids around, drawn by entertainments
as the snow let up, always
the way it was with springtime in high country,
without a face to name from years
apprenticed here.

   But it's Ohio, love, and March, April in days, closing
in on anniversaries, and a year almost,
since preliminaries nudged, a cold season inspired,
reason enough itself, after months,
to be attending the first sketches, and a shake of the pen
to jumpstart ink let sit too long, visiting
this news again from those under-traveled worlds,
finding its way across
the tight-ruled yellow pages, to say how perspectives
changed, as cloud and light relax
through this full year after that, and photographs
emerge, as the figuring lets up, even
that rain turning to snow and chain-laws on Mt. Rainier,
and Mt. Rainier turned reticent, a shyness,
it may be, Christine Falls was having none of, not
with a name that sticks, after day-lit
Pacific views, off-highway parking, pics on a beach
they'd named for something to do
with handguns, where white sea-lusting birds
made animate
owned the air space over us, and cousins
retired to stones we'd seen
the ocean's
     had ways with.




     I'm ahead of myself again, turning from the Interstate
a little south of Flagstaff to the two-lane
Canyon route, south through the pine-shouldered stone
a late sun lifts colors from, until
I cannot resist, easing right to the cratered earth left here
to improvise on turn-outs, believing
these struck hues, recommending photographs
subscriptions prepped us for. 

     Whatever the risk in it, the fear, I suppose, to seem too
serious, with bagged lenses, bodies, and
last light we're just about caught up in, setting equipment
out, sufficient to the moment, I'm believing now,
beginning with the brush, stone, steps down, the clipped
horizon edging a line of site, where a path of sorts
snakes through, as if to be going merely, and all the more
remote, in ever-refining haze, should
make you shiver, or Arizona answering, starting you out
toward this, the scrub-studded rouge spine
and emptier skies you let attract you, finding
a use for solitude, for
some choked or splendid palette
happened on.

     About then you feel something thoughtful's banished you,
with no hawk, snake, no scurrying things
to fix on, except for that lizard actually, lizard voice
that tells you concentrate, on the land,
no doubt, and the pictures come of it, attending
to such scale, testing the work
and pilgrimage. 

     Earlier, it might have been, as spaces unrolled, that
rider then, bearing a note addressed to you,
appeared with promises, and the light went burgundy, grey,
the hues around you washed then deepening,
leveling away to sage and bunched green middle distance,
to the tan cuts stenciled in, where
the horizon taunts, as horizons will at starting, and
the rider, vanishing, a little before
the same first stars deliberate.  Whatever this is, revisited,
be sure you're no nearer now, if you believe
what space intends, beginning to think horizons
cannot be everything, so that
his absence fails to scare, or the day behind,
the rider anywhere, so that a pilgrim,
pilgrimage, seems
only another, if odder, course
     of study.


                                                                                           Time Through Time

     Begin with the tastings, photographs, on a day pre-paid,
acquainting taste buds with sensations,
with water and wine for precedents.  How could you prepare
to enter it, to calculate, from platform and plaque,
terrain, an absence of horse, Humvee, and the emptiness
at large in an exercised perspective?  To be drawn so,
beyond the slice where land and sky seemed to be meeting,
could be reason enough, reason beside itself, with
momentary blue, dissembling grey that seem a parched land's
remedy, accessible, and all the more approachable,
once you get used to it, groomed by the cadence, poetry, so
why not be painted, petrified, scared stiff,
as uninhibited as stardust, letting an inspired balance mitigate,
when centuries-hardened grain might burn a hand
come close for all you know, here to indulge some corner
of an Arizona landscape, with Flagstaff ahead,
and this cross-striped, blue layered stone your expectations
tamper with, trying to appreciate, to understand
how lines add up, even in this dry land you might not have
hurried into, with its brushed blues, chalk tones,
maroon tossed slabs to keep you asking what went on here, so
that you can't ignore how idleness begins to be commotion,
even as winds pick up, and you step back from a fenced edge
more thoughtfully, imagining another moon
might well be looking down on this, and, in this sense, family,
about to insert itself among a mind's considerations,
whatever desire here comes to, or this blue planet's blush,
brushed blue no one beside you's noticing, bearing
time through time, and what might come when layered hues
confirm they've been here all along, even
this blue-jeweled slab, butter-hued slab, amber, amethyst,
where ancient trees were prospering, so much
as they'd been, will be, whatever conditions have in mind
to author, leaving these many wests behind,
this open land to us and barbed, as schedules get us close,
approaching the Falls, an hour or more, down
a dry road freshly oiled, and hiking in with gear, if that's
the only way to get there, and sweating back with gear
to a fully loaded Enclave, where burrowing things
ask our critique, and this blue planet
as it's struck you, starting east from The Palouse,
then north for Idaho,
Coeur d'Alene, the miles mapped, to keep
     excitements gratified.


Robert Lietz's poems have appeared in more than one hundred journals, including Agni Review, Antioch Review, Carolina Quarterly, The Colorado Review, Epoch, The Georgia Review, Mid-American Review, The Missouri Review, The North American Review, The Ontario Review, Poetry, and Shenandoah.  Eight collections of poems have been published, including Running in PlaceAt Park and East DivisionThe Lindbergh Half-century (L'Epervier Press,) The Inheritance (Sandhills Press,) and Storm Service and After Business in the West: New and Selected Poems (Basal Books.) Besides the print publications poems have appeared in several webzines.  A net search for "Robert Lietz poetry" will provide a representative selection. In addition, Lietz spends a good deal of time taking, post-processing, and printing photographs he has been making for the past several years, examining the relationship between the image-making and the poems he has made and is exploring.

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