Another Risen Hour

My evenings as a male dancer
were similar to my Sundays as a piano teacher
in the church of the uncertain.

When I stretched my long self out
as the Rattlesnake Grade, I was pure road
above rising mounds of canyon.

A stained-glass sun poked into my tar,
into my gravel. Cadmium light scraped
the next moment from the current beat-beat-beat.

Even paths that eroded into hill
had a longing for more and more sky,
as if to lead this way and that

in the name of why not.
The wind along the river thrummed
a backbeat into the bones

of my knees. All you could do any day
was struggle another risen hour
until they shot the next traitor.

Dancers first.
Piano teachers, county roads.
A highway the authorities had always suspected:

a snow plow,
a g-string flung into the audience,
piano keys freed from particular sounds.




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Something Luminous

I don’t want Lucy’s basalt cliffs
interfering anymore with my blue lake.

Okay, now I will mention small streams
that connect one thing to many other things

as if her smile
might not be enough to get the river flowing again.

I’m not calling Lucy this morning
in preparation for not calling her

tomorrow, all week, for months, forever.
Hear what you want. My ears grow

large. People disagree with me.
Touch my arm. I’m too hot to walk across

though not nearly a desert without stories
of water or successful migration.

That dense distant green?
A closely held forest, an orchard, a vineyard

no one expected. Our village:
the place where we grew up too narrow

for real love: our village naked under trees.
Maybe there’s someone there

under her clothes. Isn’t the luminous air
kind of humble today?

Matter-of-fact, slightly surprising,
as if there’s a whole neighborhood of us

ready for a kiss?
She’s not from this town.




John Whalen is the author of Caliban, published by Lost Horse Press in 2002. In Honor of the Spigot was published in 2010 and won the Gribble Press Chapbook Award. Whalen’s newest book, Above the Pear Trees, was the winner of the 2014 Floating Bridge Chapbook Award and will be available in the fall of this year.

Photo of luminous lake courtesy Shutterstock.

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