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WHITE WHALE REVIEW
Nolan Chessman
Nolan Chessman's poems have recently appeared in The Madison Review, Leveler, and the Diagram Anthology of Poetry. He teaches in the Expository Writing Program at NYU.

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RABBITING IN THE AFTERLIGHT

Nolan Chessman


Nolan Chessman

On our way

to the hospital

rice fields

 

swell to a low

croak, lapping at

the riprap.

 

The bicycle slogs by—

you put your good hand

to your both-bad

 

ears, say, I can hear it.

Not the gurgling

driftlitter in the gills,

 

you hear heavy

metal guitar solos, doors

slamming in concert

 

pitch. A violent flicker

earing out a surface

on which to lay its hammer.

 


Nolan Chessman

I have not been able

to shed my trigger hairs.

Hereditary taint. Curved

 

mirror. A razor blade.

The cats died

just inside the door, snow

 

spilling through

the mail slot, covering

their dark remains.

 


Nolan Chessman

Wheeling

from the farm

I swerve

 

into gullies

to miss Takashi, his arms

beaten of crows.

 

My wish

is that the beasts

be unbroken,

 

that my tongue

soak up the parlance

of lake swimmers

 

kicking the turbid surface

clear over the high water-

mark where I sometimes stand.

 


Nolan Chessman

I tear my pants

scything the grass out

of the field.

 

Children point, but mostly

they are kind. They are

rabbiting in the afterlight

 

of misadventure,

so I hear.

They are children

 

holding hands around

a shrine. When I say don’t

sadface me, they cannot

 

puzzle out a response

smile. They thumb

coins into the box.

 

Wake up. Touch

the rope lightly

against the dull bell of grief.

 


Nolan Chessman

One

hundred upside-down

chickens

 

tied to my arms

and legs

means nothing to you.

 

Will you

come and sit? This wheelbarrow

is for sitting.

 


Nolan Chessman

Tiny bodies

to the morgue

and things go glimmering.

 

If you would just let us sit,

for you all my fingers can be

like lips on your neck.

 

All my life

all I’ve wanted

was rain-scraped—

 

a window,

a house of wood

freshly burned.

 

Let me take this rake

gently from your quiet hands.

We can stay here;

 

there is enough work.

Here now a torn worm,

the bird that eats its pieces.


Nolan Chessman

I can tell

by the way

you idle

 

outside my door

you have something

real, like a fish knife

 

in your hand, fingers

ragged. Some kind

of accident.

 

I want always

to help, to let you

in. I play music

 

you can’t hear

then I touch

your shoulder,

 

pushing

your fingers

into ice.

 


Nolan Chessman

Tonight the airplanes

roost alone.

I have made a small

 

unhappiness in you,

your horse-eyed heart,

sunken pot of fish flesh.

 


Nolan Chessman

Skinny swamp,

my mattress

caught out in the rain.

 

It’s startling to wake

up downriver and find

you are still soundless.

 

March rain,

percolator of my dreams, don’t

let me down too easy.

 

Chain that tugs off in my hand that

won’t take back all the seriousness

in my careful steps up to the caldera…


Nolan Chessman

I open the flue

but the smoke has already

filled the room.

 

Wind turbines cut

listlessly now

the panorama.

 

You don’t feel like coming

you say

pulling off your long underwear.

 

To know

the contents of five wheelbarrows

of books is to know

 

each other, to know

the soft chalk shell,

the magical dead dream inside.


Nolan Chessman

 

The school closed

for the stabbings alone

were one kind of lesson.

 

In this life I am a borrower

of power tools. I set them out

on a “path” to a “bridge”

 

I’d someday like to “build.”

Or, like the sorry trombonist,

I breathe through them,

 

smoking out all the notes too quiet

you won’t hear their quaver,

little rumble in the sea stomach.

 


Nolan Chessman

Collected enough coins

for a pint of Black

Nikka. 10p.m. 7/11.

 

By now you are dancing

the tango with C. I hear

your feet drag in wide

 

swoops across tatami.

A gasoline heater drips

lewdly, the feral cat you found

 

paws at her eyes in the window.

Schemes of yellow

in the whimpering out.

 


Nolan Chessman

The trains

are always on time.

It itches me

 

writing letters in the future

unknowable

when this morning I awoke

 

in a karaoke room, tinny heart

of gold squeezing

through the wall, my feet up

 

on the yellowing vinyl.

I came here to shake

the cold look of the towns-

 

people in their city beneath

the infinibridge.

I came without song.

 


Nolan Chessman

The hollowed out bodies

of cars in which we lived

have been filled by billowing

 

rivers, our homes

strung on their currents

like sluggard ducks

 

on the horizon.

A charcoal

furnace. Woodcut

 

repression. Have we arrived?

I run around like mad

just to say, I have.

 


Nolan Chessman

Stray mouth

yanking the skin

off the salmon’s needly frame.

 

Don’t let it in.

Don’t let in

the mother bear

 

whirling the town,

berserk claws

on the window,

 

can’t see in to know

what she is looking for isn’t.

I go off glistening

 

not to hear the shots.

You wear your deafness

like a carapace.

 

When I am knocking

only sweetly do you slide

away the walls.

 


Nolan Chessman

You shouldn’t have come,

I say, but here we are

with handsaws, wearing the heat

 

on our backs like a pair of yardbirds.

I hook my arm

around the neck and carve

 

through the branches of one antler.

The other

splinters in my hand.

 


Nolan Chessman

Alone again

in your abandoned bedroom,

my memory

 

the timbre

of a resounding clang.

You have drawn me a map

 

to the goat farm. I go

from your bed

bemused, a little moon

 

in both my eyes,

shut against the twitching

sun at the door.

 

The light is cooler

this far north,

windrasped.

 

No birches stand

where you have scratched them

into mind.

 


Nolan Chessman

I turn away

from the silhouette

of the lookout on her ladder.

 

The canal narrowing,

I follow it

back to the station.

 

Trolley cars dip, the scene

schismed in the mizzling

light against those vacant

 

fish stalls.

All of their lips

curl in vulgar sweetness.

 


Nolan Chessman

My hunger

smears. Ashes

all over the island.

 

I love you as the gnats

become a quiver of stars

in a field of lamb’s ears.

 

In this we are together,

we are not a feast of wool.

Come and sit on my blanket,

 

in the dark where it is cooler.

A zebra-striped thing alights.

See how the sky moves in droves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © Nolan Chessman. White Whale Review, issue 4.2


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