by William Reichard
I wish to tell you of the curve of space,
the roundness of time, but life intrudes.
Instead, I’ll tell you of the roundness
of the melons at the grocery store,
overpriced and out of season;
of the thumb thump as I strike each one
to find the ripest of what, in this month,
should not be ripe at all.
I wish to compose for you a treatise on the soul,
the transmigration of spirits, our infinite lives.
Instead, I’ll give you a singular schedule
that’s fixed every day; the way the house
sounds and smells at dawn; the quietness
of a winter street when no one is out
walking a dog or shoveling snow.
I wish to hand you, at last, my heart,
my true heart, and not on my sleeve,
not on a platter or the end of a spear,
but in my hands, a red, still-beating gift,
proof of all I’ve ever said and done
in the name of love. Instead, I’ll show you
one last scene, too domestic to be of use,
but true in its composition:
There is me, standing at the kitchen sink
at five p.m. doing dishes while the
early news rolls on and on.
I’m not thinking of anything, really;
half paying attention to the news,
half watching as the soap suds
curl down the drain, and I’m waiting,
always waiting at that singular hour,
the one in which you leave your office,
get in your car, and begin the journey home.
by William Reichard
I’ve given up prognostication in exchange for
flannel sheets pulled hot and soft from the dryer.
I wrap myself in them, become a tartan plaid mummy,
domestic terror. I scare the cats.
The future’s swept bare by my purchases.
I wash dishes. I claim I don’t care.
The floors are dirty. The laundry in piles chastises.
I can’t see my way through to the end of the day
and I don’t want to. The ability to read the future
is no gift. No one believes you anyway.
Consider poor Cassandra. She went mad.
I turn on the television and pray.
Salvation can be found in the plot of a soap opera.
Instead, I get a movie about a group of girls
who go on a picnic and disappear.
One is left behind, too sick to join
that tragic party. The story is old; people
get lost every day. The Pied Piper knew this.
Children gone missing on a mountainside.
Children gone missing on a picnic.
One day, when the washer finally breaks and
the garden gives back less in beauty
than it takes in sore knees and thorns in fingers,
I’ll go missing. You can look for me on
the hillside overlooking the Mississippi,
or at the end of the thin sound of a flute
drawn across the sand flats along the water.
by William Reichard
I left him there so I could
walk alone in that strange
landscape, with only sea,
stones, gulls. I wanted to know
how far I could go along
by myself. This was, as yet,
untested. For him, separation
equaled anxiety, an impatient will
to reunite two halves of
a broken whole. For me, I’d like
to say I was thrilled with solitude,
curious about a world
I never knew existed
along that stretch of common
Maine beach. But no. Only
worry as I walked, made to
stare down at the ground, to
avoid missteps on craggy rocks.
The undiscovered country!
Isn’t it what we’re supposed
to want, being American,
living in our mythical frontier?
I was scared as I made my way
alone, never sure if the land
would fall away into the sea;
if he would be there waiting
when I got back, as I knew,
eventually, I would.
William Reichard is the author of three collections of poetry: This
Brightness (Mid List Press, 2007); How To (Mid List Press, 2004),
which was a finalist for the 2003 James Laughlin Award from the
Academy of American Poets; and An Alchemy in the Bones (New
Rivers Press, 1999), which won a Minnesota Voices Prize. He has
one chapbook out, To Be Quietly Spoken (Frith Press, 2001), and
another, Signs of Light (META Press), is forthcoming. Reichard is
also the editor of The Evening Crowd at Kirmser’s: A Gay Life in
the 1940s (University of Minnesota Press, 2001).
On “Three Gifts,” “Second Sight,” and “On the Beach”:
I usually write to uncover what I don’t consciously know. Each of
my pieces starts out as a visual image; though I’m a writer, I
remember everything visually, and so this sense of the visual
moment, the “snapshot,” is important. I don’t think I could write
poetry without it. Each of the three poems included here started
out as something I saw. In “Three Gifts” it was just the way that
the afternoon light came into my living room, the brilliant pool it
formed there. From that, the story grew. In “Second Sight,” it
started with the television; flipping through the channels one day,
I came across an early British film, The Clairvoyant. The idea of
seeing beyond what we’re used to seeing planted the seed for that
poem. Finally, “On the Beach” came from a trip to Maine, some
realizations I had there that I tried to evade, but that wouldn’t be
quiet. Finally, I made the changes I’d recognized there on the
beach, and only then could I write the poem.
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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 2, Number 2
Copyright © 2007
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors
On the Beach