- Sivka-Burka, and: A Is for Air, and: Interstate, and: Notes from a Northern State
Sleep’s smashed to shards. Lap- tops glow in bed after bed. Strangers pull strangers into their heads. And yet, as starlings scatter, unwired Russian grandmothers strip to drink
what’s left of the sun after the death of Stalin, and the collapse [End Page 68] of the Soviet Union. No one pays attention to these women but themselves, as they harvest vitamin D directly,
laying out a foil sheet and broasting. Slowly, they turn tree-bark brown, not to please their husbands, but just to absorb something profound without reading.
A Is for Air
Dismantle the desks. Melt the monkey bars. Rip the clock off the wall. Augment the drinking fountain with fake marble cupids and replace
childhood with something easier, say, lilacs afloat in their own scent,
and then, [End Page 69] then I can go back to Fernwood School with my daughter and explain that school is impossible but worth the pain because you learn an alphabet that settles
into marvels, into fearless Jane Eyre whose childhood was miserable, and whose face was plain.
Except my daughter is beautiful, and she hates long novels, and she’s adopted from a country with so many intimate gods that when I watch her I wonder whose supernatural hands are guiding her— but of course it’s just me, bringing her a lilac in a Coke-bottle vase, which she accepts, because she wants to be polite, as she steps gracefully over her Ps and Qs into her lace-up flying leather
cheerleading shoes. [End Page 70]
Is it because I am finally old that my young body passes by?
I catch it in the corner of my eye. It has no clear gender.
Its shoes are in its hand. It is condemned to wander
the lots where truckers park their big rigs. Wheels are taller
here. Drivers log fake numbers in their books
to make long hauls last longer.
And on the dark shoulder, a stranger: that body. Its skin
fits too tightly. Its face is drawn, more notion than person,
like a pencil sketch of nightfall fallen. Don’t look back,
wheezes Bob Dylan, on the radio between stations—
that body’s heart is not your heart, and all its cells are dead.
But Officer, I’m wide awake, I swear.Go ahead. Slap my face. Pull my hair. [End Page 71]
Notes from a Northern State
We moved for jobs to the land of dead deer strapped to cars. Deer country sure ain’t horse country— no one rides anyone’s back.
It’s all fleeting sightings: a flash of fur, a horn, a single eye among the branches. Tiny ice-fishing houses dot the lake, and in each house, a man, a thermos,
and a phone with no reception. Can’t call the men. Can’t ask them how to gut fish, or smoke venison. Our mantle’s antler rack is ironic, from an L.A. thrift
store, hung with bits of broken chandelier, but it’s grown grave in Wisconsin, a state that’s neither boot- nor mitten-shaped,
but larger and harder to picture: rivers pour themselves into stillness. Jesus preached “Have faith” at Galilee, but here every lake is walkable in winter.
O Lord, we will always be strangers. [End Page 72]
Angela Sorby is the author of Distance Learning (New Issues), Schoolroom Poets (U P of New England), and Bird Skin Coat (U of Wisconsin P), which won the Brittingham Prize and a Midwest Book Award for poetry. She teaches at Marquette University in Milwaukee.