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Published: Wed Apr 15 2020
Art by Jin Suk
Watching the Eclipse with Weldon Kees

August 21, 2017

I’ve driven six hours to see you, Weldon, at least
To listen to your local station, to visit the place stained
(As Levis said) with the fabulous touch / Of your absence

Beatrice—though the man on the radio says it not like Dante’s love
But her Midwestern descendant, like something buzzing & gold
Or a rendezvous, Be at Riss, wherever that is. Here, I suppose:

Families crowd on the median outside each motel, their lawn chairs propped
Beyond the traffic cones. At the state park down the road, children learn
Of the Earth & Moon & Sun, those runners racing different tracks

& every one a winner. Levis said, No one notices, now, /
The moist hat brims / Between the thumbs of farmers // In Beatrice, Nebraska
But I promise, I do—though the brims belong to baseball caps

Of a kind you wouldn’t recognize. Weldon, I can’t describe it.

The sun vanishes in a blackened sky & we wait for it to return,
To solve the mystery of its own elegant disappearance. The horizon flips
As quick as a page, & the poets of my youth come into view,

So many stars. This new world is cold but wondered, & in it
You didn’t leave your Plymouth at the Golden Gate but kept going,
Drove longer than I have to be here, today, where I will you back

Like the light. In this world, you made it to the Mexico you spoke of

& lived another fifty years. (Did you see the eclipse there, in ’91?)
The highways run from Beatrice in any direction you could wish.
You can always leave—you taught me this. But must we? The sun reclaims its sky,

& I return to the road, to make the miles home before the second night
Of the day. The radio host takes calls from anyone who wants to talk—
His friends get through to say, Hello, great job—but we are all of us friends,

Leaving town in traffic as thick as New York’s or the Bay’s, as slow as a funeral parade
But much happier. I wish you could see it, Weldon: your hometown overgrown
If only for the day. You didn’t need to leave for the thronged

& shadowed cities: we could have stayed.

See what's inside AGNI 91

Mairead Small Staid is the recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and Phillips Exeter Academy, where she was the 2017–18 George Bennett Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Believer, AGNI, The Georgia Review, Kenyon Review, Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. She lives in Minnesota. (updated 4/2020)

 

 

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