Home > Poetry > two poems from Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie
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.
two poems from Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie

“The automatic garage-door opener”

The automatic garage-door opener
lifts on a prospect of Poughkeepsie:
row of parked cars along curb, man
leaf-blowing each falling leaf,
sumac growing beneath the overpass:
if you’re not part of the problem,
you’re part of the lengthening
tragedy: we see all the others
slipped into the bright shapes of endeavor,
imprints snow slowly fills, but the stray
detours and workarounds of the secret
city inside the more obvious one
elude our plundered adornments
and church-bell quarter hours:
on the outskirts of the absurd
attention to the material life,
of course the factories are empty
and the train line overgrown,
and the everyday fills the ravine
beside the highway: the passive voice
speaks on our winds and in the humming
of our truck tires, the delicacy
of Saturday-night videophoning
and bonfires across the valley
in woods past their peak

“The absent tenant’s electricity . . .”**

The absent tenant’s electricity is shut off for nonpayment, and for two July weeks the twelve-pound turkey in the freezer thaws. Fluttering curtains, half-turned head, window lit with a single bulb: anyone can tell this story, but what can you say to the relentless demented music of an ice cream truck? To a cardboard box cabin in the woods behind the dumpsters where deer forage, or a coatamundi caged by chicken wire in a basement? The men, encircled, will not lay down their chainsaws, so the boys and girls sharing a bed are sent away. The Mayor of Spoor Avenue turns down his hearing aid, but behind polarized bifocals scowls at the inviolate discipline of a summer school bus, or the board of trade negotiating a key drop at the yellow house. A memoir of disintegration: “We only drink the bible water.” So many garages for rent, but a tarp stretched over the bed of the pickup truck will hold off the rain a while longer. From a nest inside the illuminated O on a strip mall’s façade, a starling watches too.

Joshua Harmon is the author of a poetry collection, Scape (2009), and a novel, Quinnehtukqut (2007). Other poems from Le Spleen de Poughkeepsie are published or forthcoming in Colorado Review, The Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, AGNI, and Typo, as well as in a chapbook from The Greying Ghost Press. (updated 1/2010)

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