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Callaloo 25.2 (2002) 453

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What's not Given

Anthony Butts

Sitting on the coffeehouse patio
she reads the newspaper,
its classifieds attesting to lovers
of sunsets as no one notices
the break in the clouds, brownstones
and maples dripping with diminishing
light, her husband lifting his coffee
at masculine intervals
as other men sip and stroll through
sweet ragweed: their most emotional
season. Another train traverses
the overpass painted in pseudo
Indian designs, trapezoidal coal cars
and tubular oil tankers clanking
over rails that meet only
in the distance like dreams
realized or words rehearsing
the essence of ideas, beauty
masquerading as truth,
the interpretation more vivid
than reality. The mocha stain
on the table, the filmy window
of the café, humid heat rising
off pavement as the sun breaks
free in tremors of cirrus across the sky—
we must have faith in what's not given—
extrapolations of the sensory world,
her truer reflection, the dark spaces
fringed by order: not the paper,
nor the sunset nor the man and his coffee, but
her green sunglasses restraining the pink sky,
her hand sweeping back loose hair once again;
and she will not notice those flecked irises staring back
from the insides of her sunglasses like lights meeting
as two trains assemble through the dark
on the one perfect track between them.


Anthony Butts is a member of the creative writing faculty of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. His "What is Not Given" is from Little Low Heaven, his third book of poems, which is scheduled for publication in late 2002.



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