The Guests, The Fasters, The Watchers

Prose Poems Inspired by George Widener: Part One

Some people go to church on Sunday and some get in an airplane.  Sometimes both of them end up praying at the exact same second because the plane is going to crash.

—George Widener, “Sunday’s Crash”



Knox County Rehab

Dear friend, I am not halfway through loving you.  The pearls of the night-birds shine in the elm trees like hair; they doff their brilliance towards the inanimate so that the animals, arrayed about and below them, glow with a creche-like light.  From my cell I divest them of their longing so that they may be innocent again.  The forest sweeps upon them like a silent storm I have been dreaming of for so long now that it has worn a furrow in my heart.  Dear heart, the seed the sun planted there has withered, won’t you now release the corpse so that I might deco­rate it?  Today is its feast day and all the churches are closed, you won’t feel a thing, I come to you with knuckles of rose hips, arms four-sided and sturdy as the stems of mint.  Tourists mistake the noise of the highway for the sea, or vice versa, but I am an anchorite and I recognize a cave wall when I see one, that is, with the palms of my hands.  They give off music like twin accordions; their lungs are books, and yes, sometimes they sting when you touch them.  Dear heart, dear vexless confidante, touch them.  We are alone together and the forest has grudgingly repatriated all we share, our dowries, the dew inside of which a dozen or more cities were found huddled, shivering, unnameable, unclaimed.


100-Year Elevator

Nothing new will happen; the calendar of our debts swims forward effortlessly through the shadows the trees make on the darkening ground and we are not, as they say, saved.  All through the night I had this feeling of ascending and descend­ing, as if some great ocean were touching me without my consent, finger-spelling all the names of God.  I was kept from loving myself by a diamond pane of glass inside of which a loaf of bread drifted.  Gifts of plate were elaborately described in the brochures, although my name was misspelled.  I polished my glasses so as to see the conductor more clearly.  He said:  When you find yourself dreaming in a language you were not born into, then you may call yourself a man, that is, a clawed being reproduced and reproducible, that melts back into the earth more slowly than snow.


Interim Female President

In this house built of weapons I am assembling a new praise.  It has a gender and the first thing it tells me is that I myself was an accident, an unexpected compli­cation in the contour of these gentle, fox-infested hills.  I was meant to be a world viewed best via painting; I was meant to be a report painting circulated in the market stalls of dawn.  Instead I am a laborer, and mud chinks the wheels of my eyes.  My son wanders blindly in the field of birds, waiting for them to clothe him in sorrow; he can’t hear my call.  He only knows me from the brightness of my reflection, from which sorrow is milled.  Under the new regime I am able to market myself in many forms around the world by air, land, and sea.  It is the ocean I know best, its sleek piano offering the keys of islands up to my touch.  Where are the animals — I keep asking — where are the eyes into which painting sweats?  I track them through the forest and into the hills.  My house watches me, its cannon cocked.  It is my house that brought the election to this continent, it is my house that keeps shedding blood, my house and the new praise I constructed inside it, that fits like a pair of perfect dentures, that chews.  And my house that swallows.  The scars are temporary, and primarily for the animals’ benefit.  A satellite appears in the night sky, a mirror cruelty has not yet broken.  Set my ship to sail against it now that I am homeless, now that my body is a dim grain the earth planes down.  Trees of lead lend their scales to the rain’s ancient heresy, from which the city models its green war.  Triumphal entry, beneath gender’s arch and flag; the speeches, the cavalcade of buds naked in the kitchen.  And the brass I polish them with, which I stole from my master, who left this life in a stone of fury just as the executions began, black beads bound to the carriage’s canted shadow.

G.C. Waldrep’s most recent books are The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta, 2012), co-edited with Joshua Corey, and a chapbook, Susquehanna (Omnidawn, 2013). BOA Editions will release a long poem, Testament, in 2015. Waldrep lives in Lewisburg, Pa., where he teaches at Bucknell University, edits the journal West Branch, and serves as Editor-at-Large for The Kenyon Review.