Monday Apr 22

Freeman Poetry Glenn Freeman has published two collections of poems, Keeping the Tigers Behind Us and Traveling Light, as well as a chapbook, Fading Proofs. He has degrees from Goddard College, Vermont College, and the University of Florida. He lives with his wife and two cats in small town Iowa where he teaches writing and American literature and watches the tomatoes grow.

On Hearing Denis Johnson Has Died

I’m fifteen and the beer cans and pop bottles
lining the stone wall have been shot, piles
of glass shards and shredded aluminum
now behind the wall. We’ll set another round
and fire away, lacking all precision but making
up for it with volume, shoot long enough
and you’ll hit your target. I don’t know
why I’m thinking of this this morning
as your face streams down my Facebook feed,
friends remembering when they first read
your poems. This is how the news of loss
comes to us now. You asked me once, why
bother writing something that I could say;
the page is for the unspeakable.
A gray drizzle and distant thunder.
Your dog-eared, water-stained books
line my shelves. With time, my friends
became good shots, but I never really
took to it. I was always clumsy and didn’t
see the thrill my friends did. I chose to drink
instead. But it occurs to me that this morning’s
memory isn’t about shooting cans. No,
what actually came to mind was senior year,
my friend and I in the watershed, drinking
and playing hooky like usual.
On the way down the mountain, his 1965
Mustang clipped a tree and tore off the right
fender, but we were so drunk
we barely registered the accident.
This was his love, a well-tended classic.
The car could still drive (good thing,
since we really couldn’t) and we made it
to his house where in his distraught state
he grabbed his shotgun as if ready to use it
       on himself. Drunk therapist as I was,
I grabbed the gun, said, “You want to use it,
then let’s use it,” not of course intending to,
just to shock him, but I hit the trigger
and no, I didn’t shoot him, but I shot a hole
in his bedroom wall, shot flying into
his sister’s closet and clothes. The gun was inches
from his face when it went off; only luck
kept him alive and my life barely changed.
Only luck. That’s what it comes down to.
No one except for a handful of friends I don’t even know
anymore know this story. S cut a hole
around the shotgun hole in the drywall,
put a string around it and made
a big drywall necklace for me to wear
in my shame. He gave it to me at a party,
and I wore it for a minute, trying
to be the good guy, then wanted to scream,
You were inches from dead fucker! Don’t
turn me into the butt of your joke. Shooting cans
seems easier. No one pours a good drink
anymore. I haven’t seen S
in decades. The gun was inches from his face.
I tell no one, but now it’s on the page.
It’s a gray morning here, and
I can almost see us turning into wind.


            Love—what is it?
            Most natural pain killer there is.
                        William Burroughs’ final journal entry

It’s not
that I’d call myself
an addict,
though not wanting
to name myself
as such
as many question
as it answers
addicted to what
I’d want to know
somewhere deep
in the reptile
brain I know
what it is
though I cannot
name it, not
the way
named his ultimate
addiction, lord
save me
from myself
you know I can’t
keep the façade
I’ve worked so hard
to construct
the concrete and rebar
the gravel and glass
the pipes
and wires the whole
building in place
of the simple
foundation no
I am a caesura
in the shortened line
a breath
in the midst of
the ongoing world
the ten thousand
things said the
Buddha the water
the wood
the charred pit
where we gather
and toss our sins
like twigs
into the fire
that will not stop burning.