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Published: Thu Jul 1 2010
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Theory of Perfection

It smells like asphalt
and air, a distance so great
you’d evaporate
long before arriving there.

It’s a kind of haunting.
When you sink
to the bottom
of a swimming pool
and lay your cheek
against the floor

and imagine yourself

it’s that big, clogged
silence that sends you back
to the surface, to the air.

It looks so hard.
Like the way, with all of us
watching, the woman

who taught etiquette classes
in a strip mall in Las Cruces

showed us one night
how a lady picks up
a dropped pen;

how she sidled up to it,
as if doing so was an act
of nonviolent resistance

and then sort of collapsed
at the knees

so it seemed certain
for one long moment

that her existence—that all
of existence—was resting

there, bottom-heavy
and sad, on her slim
and attractive ankles.

And how she snatched
the pen up.

And how she threw it down
again, so that, one by one,
we girls

would have a chance
to practice.

Carrie Fountain’s poems appear in recent issues of 32 Poems Magazine, Crazyhorse, AGNI, The Cream City Review, and Southwestern American Literature. She was a fellow at University of Texas’s Michener Center for Writers. Her first collection, Burn Lake (Penguin, 2010), was selected by poet Natasha Trethewey as a winner of a 2009 National Poetry Series Award_._ (updated 6/2010)

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