David Edelman


“Whatever simplicity is, it is no casual hobby.”
                                               — W.V. Quine
Not the superficial simplicity 
Of oatmeal or soy beans—
And not the not owning of things
In the big house or the big car

Out front—no, simplicity not
In things but in the eyes.
The seeing of what’s there—
The sadness of the man bathed

In tobacco on the bus, the resentment
Of the woman stuck at her desk—
This simplicity, this beholding.
I don’t mean seeking out

The man living on the grass,
Which, with obligations abounding,
I haven’t time for. I mean
When the man on the grass

Addresses me, I turn
And meet him full-face.
For eight straight months
The wounded dog of my body

Bit my eyes with dryness,
And now I can’t see
A face or read a word
As if they were natural acts,

As if they’d ever been.
I'm alien in my sight
Of the world’s presence.
The quiver of the cedar branch,

The flit of the chickadee,
My glasses on the desk, the droop
Of the power cord, the dust
At the edge of a bookshelf—

All is apparition.
Traveling for two months
In my twenties, I woke up
More than once not sure

Where I was, the room odd
With old stained furniture,
My dream placing me in a past
Where my grandfather still talked

Of his years stationed in Hawaii
And sat at our kitchen table
Without his oxygen tank.
As that first strange blink

Of recognition, so now
The sight of morning overcast
Or last night's dishes, Julian’s
Outfit for the workday, the bent slats

In the blinds. For the untrust
In the ordinary vision of things
I’d trade the most boring routine
Imaginable, if I thought stacking

Cans or shuffling papers would situate
Me among the unmystified. Now—
The ridged drainpipe bolted
To the wall, a dog barking

From the back of a passing truck,
Footsteps clumping the apartment
Hallway, water sputtering,
Then gushing through the pipes—

Now none of this taken 
As flat facts. On a slow walk
With students, I picked up
A crushed plastic water bottle

And looked at it. I wouldn’t have minded
Sun and the stark rich blues
Of a Steller's jay, but if like Leopardi
I thought I might go suddenly
Blind for months, I wouldn’t waste time
Waiting for the spectacular. I’d settle
For the world made old.
When our neighborhood was still

Too new for public works,
My mother’d take us to the central
Park in downtown Auburn.
I remember shade trees

And the rank tinge of the empty
Leaf-caked swimming pool—
Reverse memory of the zoo’s
Rose garden, the weight of sun

And the too strong perfume
Of bright biting flowers.
And if the pleasure is severed,
Is the self also severed? Why

The flicker alighting on the plumtree,
Why the sun breaking over the ridgetop,
Why the leaves atwitter as if
Without past? Why the train whistle

As if from some other place,
Why the sun through the blinds
And the wet swimming in the eyes,
Why the memory of diving 

At the reservoir, bright and cold
And crowded? When I hear
A friend I’d never kept up with
Has died, what happens

To the memory only he
Could have corroborated, that cut
Only he could’ve returned, some part
Missing not in the text of myself,

But in the arrangement of objects
On a bookshelf, their unremarkable ease
Next to one another—the photograph
Of a blurred landscape, a tile

From Assisi, a broken leaf fossil?
How do things take their space,
Their marks not settled, but
Unseen, as if the first sun

Had not blinked wet 
Into my eyes, and the lit vision
Of rain on the windowpane were not
All the world I’d ever see?

David Edelman’s poems have been published in various magazines, including Seattle Review, Fine Madness, Slant, Freshwater, Rio Grande Review and others. Brooding Heron Press published his chapbook, After the Translation.

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