When they asked me to give an
improvised speech—you can say
anything and everything—and
handed me a phone book, I resisted
the urge to build houses or gather
loose leaves in need of weighting.

The tome didn’t have to be the longest
and most absurd script in history,
a mixture of tax attorneys and roofers,
machines whose marvels had vanished
in the haze of years. Stardust ghosts.
Names that seemed mere accidents.

I wanted to make it more.

After a rigid pause to assess my
spiritual limitations (true, poem
wasn’t built in a day) I envisioned
the old book as a lesson. Our
crowded classroom was a waiting
congregation eager for testimony,
not merely some hidden desire to
set this distorted world in order:

Vacuum sales turned to launching
point for wars abhorred. Locksmiths
as keys to some other self, those
needing check cashed, who willingly
donated cars. Furnaces and air
conditioners wouldn’t merely be
seasonal comforts, but lifetimes
of saying how true for everyone
who once lost comfort. For now.

In the end I skimmed the tired
pages, curled by time. My voice
too, a single cowardly note begging
for another prompt, not like the
good old days, when in a sense
they sold innocence like clean gutters.

When gloom wasn’t always renewed.


Remarkably Curious

Pray for me. I can’t
answer your eyes,
being in-between.

I’m the type of type
who likes to be done
with the dentist by
nine in the morning
and let the rest of the
day stretch before me
with the lethargy of
stones. To watch hours
stretch. To lay claim.

The view from my
windows is neither
immobile nor cold,
but an unfathomable
depth, a phantom
reckoning, one last
notice—not merely
a mural, propaganda
for the poor, letting
them know starving
soldiers deserve
some comfort too—
of how the universe
cannibalizes autumn
hues and acts the
pelican, the pilgrim,
tender to those who
are neither sons nor
quite queens, preparing
to heal us even before
we’ve been wounded.


M. Kolbet teaches and writes in Oregon.