White Whale Review: An Online Literary Magazine Untitled Document
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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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


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


hundred upside-down



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,



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


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,



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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