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Poem with Several Unforgivable Keatsian References, Poem Burning Up in the Fire I Lit to Warm My Son, or Do as I Say Not as I Do

By
May 15, 2011

Given the circumstances, who wouldn’t
talk to the birds—they can fly, we can’t.
I fancy starting out flirtatiously as with
this predawn phoebe: “Hello, darkling,
where’ve you been all my life?” Sure,
when we say the world we’re merely hedging
guesses but I’ll take a stab this morning,
I’ll buzz in: I recall one glorious fall hunt
when I stumbled for the scantest of moments
into a response to Blind Willie Johnson’s
earnest query “What is the soul of a man?”
before the pheasant of an answer flushed
properly into a windy horizon. When young
I drew a picture of an orange and purple
monster which my mother captioned with
what must have been my words—“This is
Chee-Chee, he’s a spider ranger, he steals
souls”—long before I was told they didn’t
exist (monsters, souls). But I’ve witnessed
the monster I can be drawn by my own
young son, cobalt blue with yellow eyes
labeled by his pre-school teacher “a scary
person who isn’t really a person,” so I think
I’ll keep my soul this morning, a consolation
prize, fledgling my mother once nourished
with a pot of stove-warmed water carried
to a tepid bath, hence my first thought
while looking out the early window:
the moon as a pot of stove-warmed water
your mother carried to your tepid bath, hence
my conclusion that perhaps good John Keats
was wrong, that the world isn’t the vale
of soul-making so much as it is the river
running through the vale in which souls
can drown. I knew I was flailing when
yesterday a sparrow landed next to me
in the grocery store parking lot and I
had nothing to say to it, whereas when
my son ate boot-slush off the doormat
I yelled at him, sent him without a bath
to bed though he shook from the gouts of ice
that slid melting down his gullet. Since when
had I become a wiggler unworthy of a bait-hook
squirming on the shanty floor, I wondered, my negative
capability increasing through the night until the boy
woke crying, the woodstove fire dead.

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DombrowskiAuthor-100.jpgChris Dombrowski is the author of a chapbook, Fragments with Dusk in Them, and By Cold Water (Wayne State University Press), which was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year in Poetry. His poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, New Orleans Review, Ninth Letter, Poetry, and others. He lives with his family in Missoula, Montana.

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