A Sense of Where You Are

poems about place

by by Sam Alper, Erik Font, Taylor Anne Lane & Micah Thanhauser


There is nothing other than the pyramid
of tires that seeks amnesty
from the flatbed-truck-baggers
lurching by, outside
city limits.

The diaspora the carpetbags smooth out
their disparate fantasies every morning—
and the pyramid owns its own frost
the herds their soluble graze the fringe
their flatbed sack dreams but not yet
the pick-up.

The diaspora are in the clammy grips of morning
when the eddies of the clockhands swell
with the kickings of the day hours.

The other misses—
spit spat toddling engine swine
gruff daddies laid out on the cradle metal
huffy snouts and muted eyeballs
astray in the landscape’s mirror
that smothers noise—
like their moustachery ruffled by the sweet strums of the wind.

Case in point that linearity breeds
on flatlands leaving bastards due
for a tune-up lube job—
the sign reads Pampa
but the diaspora aren’t there yet.

The High School lawn the fabric
scenery on the eve of everyday
—just like that ol’
state road!—

where the chummy
chums thick faced compadres
chugged spat kicked across the avenue
sweet leather milk arms
by the denim wash
—or the light-up reindeers near the porch!—
but you’re there
you’re there like yesterday it’s Tuesday
& like Monday you were there
like the ashtray cupid ashes of
a fallen last week
you were
sipping through the straw
in your sordid dungarees you
had fertilized your lawn
like Friday had put
change into the jar
for a car wash.

Without the piano bench
nothing goes for harmony
without the window
onlook to Hobart Ave
it’s the sheet music that warms
the seat the metronome whose reverb
rights the whole passersby into pace.
It’s all for the handwriting
in music theory from two generations
ago under the seat that
with geometry they’re yours too.

These are your sweaty palms
in Pampa, your bedside
table & your beauty
shop in Pampa.
—cotton fields for the outskirts
for the first time!—
and the inskirts is you
making ginger snaps
& struggling with god.

She is touching
the English Grammar edition 1854.
No one sees her
thin wispy hair onset
at the bookshelf the collections
from Lorena she
rubs their oil before
lunchtime & her face greasy & bittersweet.

Her robe is silky
Her trees fall apples
Her hands are abrupt
but lotioned
Her Sundays are the same
but the others are different
She grips the wrists of her grandchildren
tightly & slaps their backs hard in love.

Alleyways like derby
tracks run like roads
goading every dog
& the casts of angels 

Pampa is the second largest
township in the Panhandle of Texas.

It’s where the diaspora are
so it’s where you are.
You are there. There are
snapshots of you there.

Like the ambivalent wasp in your neck
it is there snap snip zipping
throughout your neck & this is like
Pampa that pinch
of the heartstrings
ever so squarely
but a jagged pinch
nonetheless. —TAL


Remember when that orange soda bottle exploded in your hand?
You weren’t clutching it hard or anything.
One time you asked me why I don’t write proper poetry.
We were at one of the tops of the world,
up the Santa Monica hills off Barrington,
looking out over the scriggly diggly lights of LA.
I asked what you meant,
took a hit first,
So it would come out on a cough and sound casual.
You don’t write poems, you said, you use no poetic language,
you say ‘scriggly diggly,’
you don’t try very hard.
You didn’t sound very casual and I got a tear in my eye because I guess you’d hit a nerve.
The lights got more blurry and squiggly.
I was feeling the hit I was feeling
scriggly diggly what’s wrong with that, I said.
Would you rather I told you that the warm wind tonight blew as if from the mouth of
A sleepy lion?
That we are cradled in the dusty soil thinking about Rome?
Would you rather I talk more about Rome?
Because I can do that, I said, I can do the Rome thing.
My head was light I wasn’t breathing.
You were staring through me like you were waiting for a street light to change.
You don’t get it.
No I don’t, I said.
I try to but,
when I try to reach out and grab it
everything gets all diggly.
You said you poor thing, all casual.
That may have been the first night we kissed I don’t remember the rest is all,
you know.—SA

America: 12/17/10 - 1/25/11 

Mencius Confucius, Caddie, Caddie
Inbox alarm clock days ticking
Bonetired getting into car a
Pale cold creature.
Get lost on the way out of Providence
Lose self, sleep till New York
Traffic jams and stop lights blaring
So long cold Brooklyn,
Roaring into the soft Virginia night.

Cheese water pumpernickel bread
Smokey mountain sunset
A great shit in Georgia
Into Texas, Kentucky Whiskey and a ripe loaded grapefruit tree,
The bayou sky glowing red
With the imagined fire at the end of the road.

The Mississippi river
Big bowls of tamales
Sunflower husks cracked and spit
Into an empty box of fiber cereal,
Racing shaking into the full moon
Breathing and sighing
Setting tents with rocks whipping
In the wind, the chatter of bones and cascading pebbles.

Dive into caverns
Spiked icicles growing and clinging
With all the chaos and energy of life,
Millennia of patient silted water drops
Wind and acid, elements combined
And formed in the earth’s wet womb.

Climb into caves
For fifteen years filled
With baskets of corn and red plumed birds
Red rock with closed mouths of mud
Long-gone people dancing, praying, making love,
Left, leaving pasty white ghosts
To haunt and wander
Murmuring and singing echoes.

Find west at last
Drink a Manhattan in LA
From big sky back to box homes
Men in ties, women eye-lined lipstick
Frightened and clawing
Sad small lonely tired.

The Pacific so wild and calm
Mussels and jellyfish crash upon the shore
Exploding into bits, to gather and burn
With driftwood, twisted and huge
Rocks like mountains
Air even vast and free
Water thundering echoes
Electric green moss crawling over trees,
Soft sunglints of snowflake
Frozen stillness of treetops in postcards
Snow-rain mud squishing under silent boots.

Drifting into backseat slumber
Head on warm lap
A whispering “let them sleep,”
Falling in again
Naked body wrapped in sleeping bag cocoon
Headlamp beam falling quiet
Against the crashing sea.

Fall into a warm soft-haired new years bed
Lying childish together,
Warm wet hands held
On this edge of gaping ocean,
Tomorrow will I wake up where I am?

Trade bags in a coffeeshop
Tired of travel, cutting through space
Cutting and cutting finding only new outsides,
Skidding down a snowy mountain pass
Alive, winding into dusk
Among ridges like teeth ripped wide
Swerving into gentle January wind
Swirling up dust, harsh in the headlights
Soft in moon.

All day through deserts
Scrubby grass and sometimes cactus
Streaks of salt, ravens and smooth-eyed foxes
Sunrise too beautiful country too big
Racing to America’s Best Value Inn,
Fried pie in Oklahoma closed at 5
Teenagers with cowboy hats and pickups
Kids and dads with camo hats
Sipping soda in gas station diners
Long straight roads,
North Carolina mountains, cashews
Ripening avocados bought in California
A cold floor mountain shack
Curling close to the fire
A clay face on a clay pot
Curling smoke and banana pudding.

Drive East - to home
Cold air, clean toilets,
Warm arms, and a cozy bed. —MT

Étretat ‘79 

in the corner of Brittany
a cliff at Étretat dips its finger into the
water like a piano player
here they met
the wind the water
bore twins on tricycles

parked on tall grass under a shadow of concrete
they peer over the handlebars and through their bangs
the century ends —EF