090.4: Rusty Morrison & John Gallaher:: [First to Last] pt. 4 090

We Had Our Doubts on the Way to Time

It can be nice to think of hope
as an erasing. I erase the dead part
of my dead friends, the knot in any
direction at once. 

Hopefulness is what all of these
blank expressions are for. 

I read “the mountain goats” just as the song
“No Children” came on,
by The Mountain Goats. It’s another erasing,
one done with these strangers that show up
to play the parts of everyone you know. Yet another
slope of shifting stones.

I’m standing in line at the hardware store
and the guy in front of me says,
“You can’t make that shit up.” But when I tell the story
I make up that it’s a hardware store.

Erasing is just another mirror
we step into, I’m thinking,
imagining these goats of yours on their
precarious cliff face, some other world
made to look precisely like this one,
where we pose before each other as if posing
were a mighty leap
where later we might be
stacking apples on a game show. 

And it matters, doesn’t it, as all erasing does: 

When we run out of bombs
we throw our children.

On Our Way to Doubt, We’d Been Had by Time

I didn’t realize that I’ve been stacking apples on a game show,
until you told me. I hadn’t noticed
the game show audience
behind my back
until you pointed them out.
But now I can see that the poem
has always been
on to them. Whether I know it or not.

Does a poem want to rouse the audience
to cheer for the apple-pyramid
or its collapse?

Have you heard of the poet
who has a full portrait of Emily Dickinson
tattooed on his back?
The better to know her, by
not seeing her?
When he shifts his shoulders
her ambiguous expression’s changing smile can actually make
that audience laugh.

Is this poem a tattoo that I
already can’t see?
Is ink always only as deep as skin’s memory?

Hope, you tell me,
is what all these blank expressions are for.
Blanks that tempt me to fill them
with all my not-knowing,
all the apples I’m stacking
to watch them fall.
But a few, I’ll keep for you
to share with me,
crisp and sweet, and not yet bruised.


Upon further investigation, “Watch
your back” becomes “Hey,
lookit that!” as the new swimsuit line
extends across the boardwalk
along the beaches of Tulsa.

Is that what I’m doing? What
we’re doing? Whose keeper will it be,
then, who regards the tiger
drag itself over the top
of its enclosure? And which are we cheering for?

Which lecture is it where they prove
humans know how to talk? And that words
can never be heard, mathematically speaking.

I always give up too quickly.

The afternoon drags on
as any minute we’ll start singing
becomes our song.