At the Bar

“From things about to disappear I turn away in time” (Samuel Beckett)
Was it snow or milk    hooked to the rock      or streaming
over its blind eye        milk or snow   draining
from that rock             Or was it a loose milky scrawl           a snowlit shawl
Would it ever fill a mouth            A soldier writes the first words
in your book    his eyes too choked    for light or dark
Where is our language?          Where are our gods?
His wrist-          bone bordered by dark          delicate hairs             slightly bent as he writes      his brother’s name in tiny letters
How did the rock        hook the milk              how did it hoax the snow
to topple over it              soften the grief            obliterate the rage
Or was that the milk no one could drink      fume and gag
In your civilian light   you spoke to the soldier who wrote
in your book                Where is our language?          Where our gods?
In your yellow book     he wrote the first words             You felt
a conversion in the air             around the stools you each sat on
draped tent      flap of air    without conversation              In each glass
of shaken ice              was something colder
rock-cold         The soldier’s life was dependent on your strangeness
Too much cost in the field      of stars             Risk had hardened
his shadow      Snow and milk                        the white sand in the desert
where he was stationed
“There were hundreds of bottles lodged in the wall”             he exclaimed
“in New Zealand”       “Misty green as Middle Earth”                       “Anything
you’d want there”       he cried           his eyes remaining colorless
“a spigot for each bottle          a cup for each drop”   You watched him then
in New Zealand stumbling blackly out into a violet light      his shirt loose
Each drop a bullet in a cup meant for milk          His eyes offered neither
exit nor entrance         They were Middle Earth         You were Rock and Milk and Snow
He spoke and spoke    across the space between you             the air  drifted and crumpled
“I want to be a teacher” he said          flatly                All that was missing
from his words was his mouth             What was missing from his eyes
his eyes                       too choked for language          or for gods

Alessandra Lynch is the author of three books, most recently Daylily Called It a Dangerous Moment (winner of the Balcones Prize, finalist for the LA Book Awards). She has received several fellowships, including residencies at Yaddo and the Macdowell Colony. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. Currently she serves as Poet-in-Residence at Butler University in Indianapolis. 

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