Mudlark Poster No. 38 (2002)

Ian Randall Wilson

Deeply Suspicious of His Own Behavior
Descriptions of Places are Generally Based

Ian Randall Wilson is a contributing editor to the poetry journal 88. Recent poetry of his has appeared in the SPINNING JENNY, SPORK, and ALASKA QUARTERLY REVIEW. His first fiction collection, HUNGER AND OTHER STORIES, was published by Hollyridge Press.

Deeply Suspicious of His Own Behavior

I spend a good part
of each evening watching books
for signs of a religious conversion
or Communist affiliation
or some other shift in the perfect
binding that signifies a longing
to reenter the acorn.

I once wanted to spend an evening
with St. Alacrity, patron saint
of book binders and book salesmen,
those patient though slightly mad
men who live in cars
and cross the country
carrying all that knowledge
in their trunks,
so many rear springs shot
and shocks gone, forever
wearing out the tread
because words have weight.

Who among us, really,
can write a book worth watching
especially after we receive
as many books as the system can take —
any more spells excess.

I'm here in the world of conventional signs
wondering how things might change
if we added one more letter
in the way others wonder about adding
a new state, say Puerto Rico.
We'd get a lot of new words in the language,
new sounds and fried plantain after dinner,
possibly a new way of describing
how I might enter the house,
hang my hat.

Descriptions of Places are Generally Based

At first we made very geometric
straight-line approaches trying
to discover if colors
were part of the plan.
Then a few selected blowups,
always smoke,
let's say a tree
today until society falls
out of love with nature.
In a small California office
the work must go on.
We need a new philosophy of art
as the old one is deeply decayed.
Coyotes will not help
or the sound of lieder too
early in the morning.
A chemical pathway perhaps
otherwise you get lost.
You have to work on a problem
known to be a problem
though this is hard.
To see an image on the screen
doesn't guarantee its existence in language —
I point you to last Tuesday's circus of glass.

Bacteria were unaffected
and I had no viruses complain.
Many atoms were disturbed
but many atoms are always disturbed.
We need no executive order
beyond the intake of breath
to kick up a ruckus round here.
In the microscopic landscape
all is hurry multiplied by itself,
who knows what the millionth iteration will bring?
We will set up a boundary here and here
and over here.


Why does she get right out of bed
and pick up her guitar?
So far she only knows three chords
which means her playing can't be taken
as a comment on our sex.
A brown guitar, I'll tell you,
not any shade of blue.
But she's playing the blues —
about how long it's been since her man
has done her right.
It hasn't been that long,
ten minutes by the clock on the nightstand.

She gets stuck in her transitions,
the strings buzz
as if her fingers won't commit
to what comes next,
the tablature proves deceptive,
all the notes won't stay on the page.
It often happens that criticism creates
new problems as fast as it fixes the old.
C Minor is not the same
when the strings go out of tune.
I tell her she's getting better
that in a few weeks
her fingers will feel fine.

But I wish she would take up cooking or painting,
something we could eat after work
or sell at art shows on the weekend
to pay for our expenses to get to the art shows
on the weekend.
Instead she's down there strumming
the standard changes.
Now her man has done her wrong
and no diamond ring
or another trip to bed will fix it.
I should be worried
but it gives me an anthem to hum
when I march off to sleep.

Copyright © Mudlark 2002
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