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“When It Is Over It Will Be Over”, and Saturdays at Reynolds Work Release

From: New England Review
Volume 34, Number 3-4, 2014
pp. 38-41 | 10.1353/ner.2014.0011

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

“When It Is Over It Will Be Over”

after a pen and ink drawing by Troy Passey
of a line by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Hurricane of what must be
            only feeling, this painting’s
sentence circling to black

on blank, ever-
            tightening spiral
of words collapsing

to their true gesture: meaning
            what we read
when not reading,

as the canvas buckles
            in the damp: freckled
like the someone

I once left sleeping
            in a hotel room to swim
the coast’s cold shoals, fine veils

of sand kicked up by waves where
            I found myself enclosed
in light: sudden: bright

tunnel of minnows
            like scatterings of
diamond, seed pearl whorled

in the same
            thoughtless thought
around me: one column of scale

turning at a moment’s decision,
            a gesture I
was inside or out

of, not touching but
            moving in
accord with them: they

would not wait for me, thickening
            then breaking apart as I slid
inside, reading me

for threat or flight by the lift
            of my arm, as all
they needed to know

of me was in the movement:
            as all this sentence
breaks down to O’s and I’s,

the remnants of someone’s
            desires or mine so that
no matter if I return

to that cold coast, they will
            never be there: the minnows
in their bright spiraling

first through sight, then
            through memory,
the barest

shudderings of sense:
            O and I
parting the mouth with a cry

that contains—
            but doesn’t need—
any meaning.

Saturdays at Reynolds Work Release

I remember never being afraid because they said
the crimes they’d committed were small,
because when they locked each man alone
in the room with me—nineteen, thin as a child
beside the smallest of them—with their books
and pads of paper and sharpened pencils, only
a tiny window that looked out into the hall
where no guard stood, I could see

the boredom and the shyness on their faces, these men
fresh from prison but still waiting
in one building, in Pioneer Square, in Seattle, in winter

where every Saturday it rained, a fact
we hardly saw ourselves but heard
in the drumming against the roof’s beams and in the wet
squeak of someone’s soles down the hall

where I would teach them words
they would or would not use, going over
with one man, who was twenty-five but read
as well as a fourth grader, pages of Genesis
so he could learn the terms

firmament and plenitude; his agate eyes
flicking over pages that looked
recently unearthed: phrases to be practiced
at his new job, which was to drive a forklift
for Weyerheauser, because it was the Bible

he wanted first, as another man wanted Louis
L’Amour and a third asked for the back issues of Time
magazine someone left in AA on the chairs. And it was

not frightening, no, not even when one man said
he’d made tapes of letters that he would send me, recordings
of his thoughts that spooled in the dark in the new
dormitory where he couldn’t sleep, its locked doors

but open windows, the insomniac moon
peering in on the skinny desk clerk who checked him
in or out, who called the C.O. if he missed
a meeting, learning to move
from bed to work to group to lights out, but not
to outside the building to stand alone
and smoke a cigarette. And what did he feel

those nights, listening to the rain a wall away,
the cars that drove by in the dark, each steered
by someone smoking, singing, driving until morning

came with its cramped room, its yellow books to stutter over:
firmament, the men spelled out, plenitude, gunslinger,

working until the locked door rattled open
and I got up because it was time for me
to leave, the sounds of cafés and movie theaters
welling up behind me. So close,
I told them, when they got a word

less wrong, as if discipline
made a difference, stopping the lesson only
when one man, furious, slammed a hand to the table

and began crying. And even then
I wasn’t scared...

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