|Oct/Nov 2013 Poetry Special Feature
Electronic/fiber artwork by Phillip Stearns
I had to write his life—
but all my questions
brought forth only lies.
He'd tell me tales
that started well but led me
round in circle after circle,
or he'd show me photographs
of things that never were.
He'd lay his scrapbook
out before me: clippings,
Reuters files— events
that must have happened—
then denied them,
swore another version was the truth.
When the will was read,
they gave me his portfolio:
of architecture never built,
electric circuit diagrams
impossible to make.
What could I do?
My project half-abandoned—
the publisher turned impatient,
demanding a completed text.
And long ago, the last
of the advance was spent.
An Orderly Procedure
After that, it became a question
of what could be seen from the road,
the lines of sight at various points,
whether certain objects caused obstruction,
if the angle of sunlight made a difference,
an electric lamp switched on or off,
the slump of a sign or the hang of a curtain,
the growth on a hedge at that time of year,
how much movement might attract attention,
prompt a passer-by to circle back.
The only way to find out was to try it,
make it practical, walk the way
the other might have walked.
But a body can't be
in two places at once,
can't be both observer and observed,
the witness and the witnessed.
And there might be other factors:
an abandoned package, an uncollected bottle,
what seemed at first like a routine call.