Denmark at Twilight
I am drinking in a bar called Denmark
that overlooks the convention center
when a man enters with his date, throws
his arms to their full length, gesturing
across the expanse, and exclaims “Welcome
to my family’s property.” It’s unclear
to us patrons if this refers to the bar
or the convention center, though both options
seem equally unlikely—and I try to imagine
anyone being impressed by this, though,
to be fair, she’s not impressed and instead
she twists every pearl on her necklace,
shifting her weight as she says “Oh, wow!”
and they take the egg chairs next to me—
because this is that kind of place, you see?
The only time she really lights up is when
she’s talking about the difference between
the US and Paris, where she lived for six months.
She says it like a book report, so much that
when she’s done, one might want to say:
Heidi, thank you so much for your thoughts on France.
And it’s all very boring, and seems to last forever.
From time to time I have thought about infinity,
thought that perhaps it would get very boring,
like a bad date, or when your parents left you
in the car at the store, and all you had was
the tyranny of your mind to hold the place.
Things should change. A man is given a watch
at the end of a career to mark his retirement.
A duckling becomes a duck and is covered
in plum sauce. I buy toilet paper no matter
what Romantic city I call my home,
and I’m sure that heaven will be no exception.
The Four Seasons recorded “Walk Like a Man”
in a burning building. This is not a metaphor,
but it crosses my mind as I navigate a winding line
of high school football players, passing the unwashed
wide-outs, and tackles, the cornerback serving himself
another plate of food as our queue widens behind him.
This was my life, once: hurling my body towards another
to make him see stars, or to see stars myself,
because the creation of stars always requires pressure—
like a man in a hat in New Jersey who points a gun or a bag of money
at a DJ, who in turn uses songs about teenage heartbreak
like the weapons they are, carving young men into spear tips
before our eyes, and to other tools, too, so that they may become
useful to somebody, some day. I have been thinking of tools
a lot, specifically the first one, a serrated stone that perhaps
aided in the sharpening of sticks—our first factory,
as each tool begets another like the hands swinging
an axe handle, making more axe handles from trees.
Auld Lang Syne
In the same way that the body perceives
the sensation of being north,
I observe Idaho on a map and I am
wrapped in the beige of the land,
and I allow myself to be taken into the parlor
of my mind to cool my palms against its brass,
standing sentry at rampart spindles which barricade me
from movement though not from view
of rowed vinyl booths, each one the color of mint,
all leading to the inevitable moment in every excursion
when a lover turns to a lover and says
I could live here, I think. Cleveland is no more
or less quaint than any other city
and it won’t save you because you will be there, too,
awash in the fragrance of life. Being that it is the brunch hour,
revelers below us depart like plums on a branch from suffering,
and geese attempt the horizon against baffling winds,
taking formation such that it’s impossible
to ascertain their numbers by count in their dash
toward the tropics, heading south with their heads full of stories
about the rejuvenating power of Florida. As this is the New Year,
people are singing that wretched song, and all they seem
to know is the part about acquaintances being forgot.
I realize now that when I first wanted you to love me I didn’t
even love myself—I was a swimmer for your love and you
were what I envisioned in all the hours that I was under,
plucked from the river after nights spent amongst the men
who widow their wives in public. This is our year,
darling. I will never embarrass you that way again.
Christopher Blackman is a poet from Columbus, Ohio. His poems have been published in Typo, Muse/A Journal, Mississippi Review, Atlas Review, and others. He holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University. He currently lives in Manhattan.
Image: “Leaving Today” by Bobbi Le’ Rae Valentin