Poetry: Dan Chelotti
Depth of Field
There are four triangular slots
to hold the pictures down
and some have been there so long
they’re stuck. They could take us
anywhere. Back, back before
the sand in the hourglass
was replaced with ash:
a playpen in the middle of a field.
The fly in the room buzzes.
It won’t come back. The stand
of birches on the edge of the forest
keeps calling and calling,
but wind through the earpiece
isn’t the same as wind.
And here is Father holding a fish
up to the bald face of the grayscale sun,
and I feel like I’ve caught it, too.
Sand in my loafers. Proud,
but I don’t want to touch it.
It swam for months
in the shallows dodging reeds,
killing flies. And now that it is here
in my hands, it won’t come back.
In the reeds a heron doesn’t move
for an hour and then it does.
One step closer to dinner.
I’ve waited an hour for something
violent, a flash of silver, a wingspan
and the shadow of that wingspan
on the rippling water.
I could throw a rock and that heron
would fly. But it won’t come back.
What’s that? the wind asks.
The clouds in the top of the frame
grow bigger because they are afraid
of disappearing. Eventually, they will.
Into Our Interpreted World
this is different from waking
if I rise I rise with intention
with the day in front of me
already behind me as my sister
says this has already happened
I rise and sit in Amherst Coffee
eating a ham & cheese croissant
listening to Philip Glass’
string quartets while I eat
there is a mirror in the basement
of a bar in St. Petersburg that still
reflects me at 21 drunk and full
of glue and feathers drunk
and full of intention
I rise and drive north to seek
the last of the snow banks
the sheer cliff the birds that shuffle
and circle it would be better
if it were not three-dimensional
I could press my cheek flat against
a sparrow like James Dean into a wall
I’ll wait to light my smoke a little longer
than I should me and James Dean
born on February 8 that’s right
the middle of winter the hoarfrost
in our hearts that says if I can lean
the right way the world will come to me
and here it comes. Hello wrinkled world.
Hello silent telephone.
I like turtles so much
they’ve been here 260 million years
sad little armored things walking across
parking lots in the rain
walking between pools that promise
cool mud and sleep and I want to be one
the same way I want to ride a dolphin
into the sun in a rest stop souvenir shop painting
it is so hard to be honest
to look up from this poem and ignore
these glittering distractions unraveling
the horizon that before long I will be
walking toward the sun on my face
I don’t have a choice in this
river that is threatening
in its calm so calm it could go on and on
but I have hope that
a new territory will gather
my papers in order
about me and I will rise
to address the many birds
and angelic orders in attendance
with utter confidence
I have come from distant lands
I have written you this poem
I have come to tell you of the heart
what is and what will come has already happened
remember the gun in act one?
I don’t want it to either, but it’s time it went off.
What I Know
I don’t know Jack. At least I don’t know Jack
Enough to put him in my poem in a passing
Light offhand way that will make you feel
Warm on the inside. If I mention Jack
In that way you will just feel outside
And I don’t want to put anyone out
I want to include everyone and everything
So, Jack, come on in. I won’t just pass you
With you one beat, instead, I will give you
This entire poem. Don’t worry, Jack,
I won’t be too mortal. I won’t mention
A single specific bird or tree. You are safe, Jack.
When I was almost the size I am now,
I wanted to be a mime. I wanted to be a mime
Because mimes point out that the body
Is little more than a figure that will repeat
The same motions more often than it should.
When a mime leans against a real wall,
It doesn’t even feel like a real wall.
The invisible wall feels more like a wall.
Do you understand what I’m getting at, Jack.
When you iron your shirts do you spill the water
That is supposed to steam and then wear
A wrinkled wet shirt? I do, too. I then say
The humidity will take care of it, and then
I walk out into the night that no one
But me and you seem to notice.
You can see the lights along the boulevard
And how if you stand here just here
They all come together in one big light
And in that one big light you can see your Mother
Ironing your shirts for you. Isn’t it beautiful, Jack?
No, she won’t spank you. Keep looking.
Keep staring into and beyond where we started.
Crawl right back up into that womb and become
Jack deconstructed. Can you see your cradle
Before you were born, Jack? Can you see it?
Who is it for? Are you sure it’s yours?
The goal here is to hold tight to your ribbon
And run around the May pole. And as you run
You get closer and closer to the pole.
And you can’t avoid the other children—
You start jostling, bumping into them. It becomes
Harder and harder to keep hold of your ribbon,
And then you think you remember it slipping,
But you can’t, you’ve been born, Jack.
You are on the streets of some suburb
With some guy you can barely call an acquaintance.
And it’s all coming in so fast.
You have so many so many questions.
I understand. Breathe, Jack, breath. C’mon, Jack, Breathe!
Dan Chelotti is the author of x (McSweeney’s, 2013) and a chapbook, The Eights (Poetry Society of America, 2006). He teaches English at Elms College and lives in Massachusetts.
Photo credit: bcpss.org