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Poem for a Heatwave


—after De Kooning’s Excavation, housed at the Art Institute of Chicago

Approaching in these sunshowers

there’s a sense of what it might be like

to be plagued by rainbows. Proof even

abstract shapes have a likeness. And do you

have any idea how difficult it is

to take snapshots of color arcing over

pastures, driving in the worst traffic

you’ve ever seen? With slippery knees,

there’s very little room for missing

and mistake, especially through this

ambiguity of space: big rigs, trees, crops,

sky, clouds, and stretching. On the way,

tiny gas station post office convenience

store towns offer scratch ticket

big game money I already spent. And sale

bubblegum, enough for sore jaws

while shouting out 2 more songs

to busting I-beam skies— the radio’s

thinking too loud and tuning fingers

scan between big, small, and useless.

These shapes and similarity create

security better than fenders or bumpers

do, while cell phone gabbing, crane-

necked people whiz by in bent, paint-

stained stripes, and imitate melting.

At least be grateful it’s not so

hot with this rain. Like 28 people

died from heat this year, and St. Peter

will not let you into heaven if you go

without a fan. Raindrops packed too

tight, the seams between collapse in

on themselves, like after Excavation,

like frigid rain in the strangest place

and the pity of being homesick, the water

moves grass-hilled wind, sits

in the bottom of the glass. One part

too thick for drinking, driving, and three

parts less believable, my prayers

have included closing one eye. But of course,

none of this is believable, and buried

beneath my skin my clothes

my seat the road fragments of layered

newsprint slow the drying of this experience

that slows the paint on other photos too—

a glorious impression of colliding image

and brand new products of forgetting.

But now the road, the water, me,

and unearthing anything, is moving

on toward the ocean. There’s a green glow

through wiper blades, white writing shown

erased, shown erased, shown skidding by

erased. And seen through people are ghosts

of imagery, collage, or tall columns

of type— this complexity of any

individual’s experience, especially

in urban environments, is central. That’s

what I keep remembering! There’s road,

and escape without holes is the cat’s meow.

The very thing— this traveling, inside-outside,

cheers structures toward collapse, without

remains of fragmented anatomy, or dirt

of any kind. Underneath the car, the tar

combines for intersections, buildings, stoplights

green, blink yellow, blink red, and all up the street

these relationships of glass and space

know, and reveal more than us, or decomposing—

they develop a greater richness of meaning, love

within form, a relationship of steam shovel

and backhoe, tire, tread, skyline, and that imitated

sea— and explain how understanding, and commitment

are bonds that bow before the digging—  within,

without— and eventually dissolve to words, progress,

horns or yelps, before there’s change,

or leaving, or even meaning to.

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