Friday May 24

LongAlexander Alexander Long's books include Vigil (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2006) and Light Here, Light There (C&R Press, 2009).  A chapbook, Still Life, won the 2010 Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition.  Long's third book, also titled Still Life, won the 2011 White Pine Press Poetry Prize and will be published in the fall of 2011.  With Christopher Buckley, Long is co-editor of A Condition of the Spirit: the Life & Work of Larry Levis (Eastern Washington UP, 2004).  His work has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, The American Poetry Review, Blackbird, Callaloo, and The Southern Review, among others.  An assistant professor of English at John Jay College, CUNY, Long is currently at work on a biography of Larry Levis.
Still Life with Geraniums
            —for my grandmothers
The blood orange sky began to nestle
Its way inside your winter geraniums
Weeks ago, a gathering of hands
Hammered by light, water, and care disguised
As a loss I want to explain away.
A flower is burial, nothing more
Than a reanimation of your hands
I might have glimpsed just now inside this last,
Or next-to-last, still life.  I could say it
Was wind, someone else’s imagination
Taking over, yours perhaps, and you might
Tell me that the petals shiver a little
As you shift dirt so roots open and breathe.
You might try to wipe the sweat from your eyes,
And when you look up, you find the sun just
Where you thought it would be, the sting strong
Enough to slow the light that wants to take
Us elsewhere, back to where we began,
Which is why we will not explain the need
To look up at this, our, blood orange sky
While the geraniums begin to swell.
Spilt Coffee in Slow Motion
Los doce. Vamos a la cintura del dia.
Say I can’t tell you yet.
Say it’s a simple matter
Of tenses concatenating,
Then letting go
And scattering themselves
Like solitude, and rain, and roads.
Or say it’s not so
Simple: a car accident
On a city corner.
Really, the collision happened
Before any of us have been born,
A Wednesday, at noon, late June blue
Filling the sky,
None of us yet in a place
We’ve never been able to leave,
None of us offering anything
Distinct about childhood,
None of us much caring until much later.
Say the police set up a makeshift triage,
A cop with his hand
On a woman’s shoulder.
Say someone gives
Her some coffee, and she holds it
Loosely, an indifference
Mixed with dependence
In her posture, as if she
Needs something less
Than she knows.  Childhood
Will do that, sometimes seconds
Before your sedan slams a van
Full of next year’s phonebooks
And sends the driver through
The windshield and into a body
Cast for two months.
Truth is, it happened years
Ago or it hasn’t happened yet.
But I have stand here listening
To those Bible-thin pages
Turning in a summer breeze.
It feels…nice.
Then another collision will happen:
The woman with the coffee,
I will hear her again.
She’ll slap the cop’s back,
Will keep slapping and keep
Saying who who who,
And she won’t ever stop.
The lid on her cup will snap off.
She’ll look as if she’s dancing.
She’ll look up at the sky,
And will feel that burn called loss,
And we’ll watch it spill down her
Arm and skirt, like a memory
That exiles each of us
From this afternoon
And scatters us onto a page
As blank as childhood’s,
Slow and short as it is.