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Delaware Poetry Review

Michael Gushue


Of course the landscape follows you,
the road is the bank of a river,
the one you skidded towards.

The dead know better, the world’s
a strange outdoor ballroom, a gap.
It can be filled with shadows, or

it can empty out, a cracked water
fountain, a dress that doesn’t fit.
Remember, silence is not acoustic.

The dead know a shell game when
they see one. Take their word for it:
time silts your body, you cough up

muck, your skirt caked in dredge,
shredding on the edge of a lake
that should be a desert. Sure, go

shop in fabricated surroundings
you pretend are there, find dread comes
in two sizes, large, and extra-nameless.

It’s the pantomime of having a soul. Every
movie director is a psychiatrist of light,
a dead man clinging to your window,

whispering “action.” But who are they,
asking you to dance with the saprophytes,
and then dance with the heterotrophs?
The dead’s formalwear, nothing’s creepier

than Time, the thrills of a Mardi Gras
gone very cold, a prom where you swoon
in the arms of Mr. Merry-Go-Round.

Come up out of the bathtub in your
pancake makeup. Americans never leave
their cars: It’s what carnival means:

last chance to be meat: your Lent is coming,
your Spring, you are alive, but have been—
the whole time—unquestionably dead.

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It's all about snow, what else was constant
in that countryside slashed by shadow?
At night, it lit up your brain like a drug,

the storm crowned you, epaulets, whitened king,
and at the door you showed yourself as a cloak
over the glint of wineglass called body.

What did their eyes covet? Dominion—
to have a look, to have the world as what
they saw. Their knowledge was their skin—

and history a town of bruise, scar, stain,
nothing beyond an opaque wrap of hide,
nothing hidden from light’s possession.

But your mind, reeling, was a field of cold
under a moon terrified of being noticed.
Chemistry uncovered the border crossing,

the path ahead clear: a frameless window,
the country left behind as devastation,
the eye’s rapacious frenzy brought to heel.

It’s what you learned: selected viewing
was their blindness, designating the world—
the exterior all bandage, but, cracked open,

the inside all film, coating, carwreck—
unwrapping layer after layer
reveals, at the end, nothing. Absence

became the everywhere you could hide.
Yet each encounter became thrown ink,
handcuffs binding you to an attached.

They could not leave you alone,—
and you couldn’t let her, anyone, in—
opening yourself showed only breakage:

the exposure freezing you, no blanket
to stop your mind, shivering behind
the parting curtain. You could feel each door

start to close. Your disappearance not enough
now, you also had to flee, burning, outside,
no blizzard’s veil to whiteout your trace.

They caught sight of you, drove you ahead ,
and a clearing under the snow’s encaustic
seized you. A faint pale fall touched your cheek:

then your own trajectory betrayed you,
the glaring snow rose up to claim its imprint,
and each footprint left behind an emptied pool.

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About the Poet
MICHAEL GUSHUE is the author of Gathering Down Women (Pudding House Press, 2006). He is co-publisher and editor of Vrzhu Press, co-coordinator of the Brookland Poetry Series, and poetry editor for Washington Spark. His work has appeared in the Indiana Review, American Letters & Commentary, Cream City Review, The Germ, Redivider, and Beltway Poetry Quarterly. He works in international development and lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington DC with his wife and five children.