Gary Bouchard’s blank verse “ripped from the headlines” poem is a remarkable meditation on cycles and human habit.
Freed from prison, man robs Same N.J. store 14 years later
Memory wears a loadstone heavier
than gravity and our well-worn habits
are weightier still. Bringing us backwards
centrifugally not just to the scenes
of our crimes, but to the crimes themselves
like some nocturnal nostalgic longing
for the smell and touch and sound and the taste
of the moment we tried and did our worst.
Else, what judgement would step from this to this,
leave a fair mountain to feed upon a moor?
Call it the heyday in the blood. Tame it
if you can, but we do have eyes and our eyes
have memories, and what modest hope or glory
can compete with the allure of the familiar?
How far from fear our fleeing feet might go
if we could but forsake the things we know.
Mid-March, mindful of the ides, I am pulled
past the glacial snowbanks that slowly shrink
into the scarred earth, their shape retracting
like the hem of a dance-soiled bridal gown,
letting us see beneath the things we thought
were gone. The dogs rejoice at the retreat.
Veering towards prodigal vestiges
from two seasons ago, they strain at their
leashes to smell the parts of themselves they
placed upon the hardening earth before
the descent of winter’s clean forgiveness.
Same ol’ shit, it’s true, but to them it is
a fragrance fresh on four celestial legs —
the certainty of knowing where they’ve been.
In the same days of mud and longer sun
my neighbor hails hello with a certain
intemperate slur and scent that tell me
he too has returned to where he has been.
The wagon rolls on its way up ahead.
He stands where he has fallen off instead
and speaks a rhapsody of dicer’s words
that blur the grace and blush of modesty,
with tristful visage, as against the doom
that holds us both beneath a waning moon,
where I stand recalling a friend who called
her man “the Dog” though his name was Doug.
She swore he was meaner than Sunday sin
and went back to him again and again.
So, do not ask how any thief intent
on staying free could, on his first day sprung,
steal his way back to the place he last stole
and fail again at what he failed at before.
Just know that he is thought-sick at the act
and doing it again? If he thought he could?
O, such a deed! –he would! He would! He would!
Read more of Gary Bouchard’s poetry.
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Photo by Andre Charland/Flickr