We are unable to display your institutional affiliation without JavaScript turned on.
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Find using OpenURL

Chalk Line

From: New England Review
Volume 34, Number 2, 2013
pp. 142-144 | 10.1353/ner.2013.0066

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Everything necklaced with yellow caution tape,
  the theater seats with teal fabric, cupholder
    chair arms, circles immense to permit the insertion

of Big Gulps, one of which is spilled, congealed against
  gray cement, a chalk line encircling a floral-
    covered iPhone, which begins to chime the start

of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” causing the CSI sergeant
  bent to her seat, tweezers in her latex-gloved fingers,
    to startle, dropping a box of cotton swabs.

She readjusts her ponytail, tweezering a forty caliber
  bullet from a chairback & sealing it gingerly
    within a baggie. Spread about the auditorium,

mainly in the aisles near the exit doors, a dozen
  shapes of human forms, rendered also in chalk,
    twelve Giacomettis & Fallen Gauls,

chiaroscuro-ed, ectoplasmic, the half-corporeal shades
  of Vergil’s underworld. Princely Aeneas—his hands
    can pass through them, his hands can pass through

the sorrowing shade of his own father. Chalk line
  rivering the dank cement, chalk line threading
    innumerable needles. Chalk therefore the tenor,

bleeding out the vehicle. The Dark Knight rising
  at midnight above the Cineplex neon
    is the tenor, a gun show m &p 15 the vehicle.

The sergeant sips a Diet Pepsi; another cell
  begins to blink & vibrate. Before her, sixteen
    uniforms, all bent to probe the theater seats & floor,

the blood-spray patterns’ turbid action paintings,
  documented, digitized, the minute endless research
    meant to redescribe suffering, encase it

in a seven hundred page report. Bewilderment
  the tenor, justice of a sort the vehicle.
    She remembers the October she was seven.

This was Nebraska, the ’70s, the one weekend a month
  her father had custody. They paid five dollars
    at a makeshift booth & before them the corn-maze

seethed & hummed in the autumn squalls,
  the brown stalks looming, the path all switchback
    & sinew. In the truck, he’d been sipping from a flask

& when they stopped—it must have been
  the exact center—he pulled the flask from his pocket again.
    Cover your eyes, he said,& count to fifty twice.

He let go of her hand; she counted. & now came
  the endless minutes of scurrying alone, dead-ends,
    crooked bypaths, the crackle of dead stalks beneath

her shoes, the mole-colored ground, wet with a soft cold rain.
  She lay down & wept. Two women found her—
    one, she remembers, wore a yellow baseball cap.

Back they led her through the hell-mouth
  & they found her father passed out in his pickup.
    A State Trooper took her home. She saw her father

a few times more before he drank himself to death.
  But they never left her alone with him.
    & now her double shift is over; the sergeant packs

her tools into a gym bag, the latex gloves unpeeled
  & deposited into a trashbin formerly meant
    for popcorn cartons, used 3-d glasses. She walks

the cordoned, guarded halls into the lobby
  & the stabbing glare of Colorado summer sun, past
    the endless flower ramparts—floral wreaths twice

as large as a person, day lilies hissing with bees,
  7-11 roses, all piled half a story high, from the doors
    to the end of the parking lot, everything in various

stages of rot, a blossom charnel house, a floral Great Wall.
  They tell her that tomorrow or the next day, the county
    will come at night with a trash truck & a backhoe

  & bulldoze the festering heap away.

David Wojahn  

David Wojahn’s eighth collection of poetry, World Tree , was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2011 and was the winner of the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize. A new collection of his essays on contemporary poetry, From the Valley of Saying , is forthcoming. He teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University and in the M.F.A. in Writing Program of the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Copyright © 2013 Middlebury College Publications
Project MUSE® - View Citation
David Wojahn. "Chalk Line." New England Review 34.2 (2013): 142-144. Project MUSE. Web. 14 Oct. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Wojahn, D.(2013). Chalk Line. New England Review 34(2), 142-144. Middlebury College. Retrieved October 14, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
David Wojahn. "Chalk Line." New England Review 34, no. 2 (2013): 142-144. http://muse.jhu...

You must be logged in through an institution that subscribes to this journal or book to access the full text.


Shibboleth authentication is only available to registered institutions.

Project MUSE

For subscribing associations only.

Research Areas


  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access