Brian Turner (USA)
We were all Jack Gilbert’s lovers, not in the world
but in the poems, in the world of the poems, dying
on the rocky broken spurs of hard islands in a blue
country across the sea, lovers carried in his arms
for decades sometimes, more, the wind a character
that refused to lift the center of the word pain, where
vowels fall into the letter n the way the summer,
wheat-blazed and feral, pours into the cold weeks
of November, winter in its bones to come. Jack
loved us, not as a god or a devil, however nuanced,
but as one who must attend to the difficult harvest
of a life, to the losses and the simple grain that we might,
if we listen beyond the howling in our own hearts, hear
him singing about as he carries us up the dead mountain.
Exit Interview with God
After we’re dead, we’re told to wait in old photographs
until it’s our time in the queue to sit down with god
and have a good long talk about the ways of the world,
the path we made through it, our attempts to construct
an identity that could weather the years allotted to us.
Until then, we wait in these monochrome prints, which expand
dimensionally to allow us to wander through the old rooms
and fields we can no longer fully remember, trying to recall
the hues of green in early May, the rust of an autumn
long since faded into shades of wet aluminum, slate.
It is a silent world, but we manage to communicate
in our own ways—tracing the figures of letters
through the morning frost on blades of grass,
or simply leaning our heads in the direction
of our thoughts, the way shadows do.
I prefer the park bench beside the lake, the tall trees
listing in a breeze that cannot be felt, as if the world
were a boat endlessly rocking, with birds in silhouette
flying low over the water, their thoughts repeated
as I must be to them, a lone figure, seated, turned upside down.
Brian Turner is the author of two poetry collections--Here, Bullet and Phantom Noise—and a memoir--My Life as a Foreign Country. He co-edited The Strangest of Theatres (McSweeney’s), and The Kiss, an anthology of work (initially curated by Turner for Guernica) will be published by W.W. Norton in 2018. His poetry and essays have been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, Harper’s, Poetry Daily, VQR, and more. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a USA Hillcrest Fellowship in Literature, a NEA Literature Fellowship in Poetry, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, the US-Japan Friendship Commission Fellowship, the Poets’ Prize, and a Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. His work has appeared on National Public Radio, the BBC, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and Weekend America, among others. He teaches and is the founding Director of the low-residency MFA at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe.