Kent Leatham's poems, translations, and reviews have appeared in dozens of journals,
including Fence, Zoland, Poetry Quarterly, Poets & Artists, Pearl, Rowboat, InTranslation,
and The Battered Suitcase. He received an MFA from Emerson College and serves as
poetry editor for Black Lawrence Press.
Today is my birthday.
At work they sang to me, and Amanda and Pepe
brought donuts for everyone.
I realize this means nothing to you.
When is your birthday?
What do you do?
I work in the language resource center
at a small junior college.
I explain things to people
who don't understand.
Today I corrected an exchange student
who thought medical was miracle.
The difference was surprisingly
hard to explain.
What else have you given?
Bone marrow? Blood?
Does your driver's license have the little dot
meaning they'll bury you with the coffin closed?
Or will you be burned?
I don't want to be burned.
I've seen Lebowski.
Do you like movies?
Last week I watched The Kids Are All Right,
which featured Mark Ruffalo as the sperm-donor dad
for Annette Bening and Julianne Moore's
two kids. It was odd,
thinking about getting
in touch with you.
Each man is an island,
and whatever we throw
into the sea belongs to the sea.
I hope you are well.
I hope the weather is good where you are.
Today is my birthday.
My name is Nathaniel.
Because you said no
to objects in motion,
now there is rest.
Out the window, the freeway,
cars washing past like waves,
and the Crusoe sun pacing the beach,
circling the island,
getting nowhere fast.
Dust on the stapler,
dust on the leaves of the philodendron.
Dust on the glass.
Sa fer as that thir noysum bodyis cauld
Not taryis thaym thare fra, nor dois withhald,
Nor withdrawis from soverane hevinly kynd
Thare erdly lymmys, nor yit thare irksum mynd
Objects in motion.
Objects at rest.
Water dripping from tap to drain,
each drop different,
each drop the same.
Dust on the scissors.
Dust on the knife.
You have a talent and this is it.
You have a talent and this
is it for today: another run
of ones and twos,
of failed luck.
Cars like fish,
and the good moon Friday
going nowhere fast.
Footprints in sand.
It's a small island,
and that damned faucet
keeps dripping and dripping
to the drain
and the sea.
Thare bene of us nane bot ane few menye,
Quhilkis cummis to inhabit, and remanis
Dust on the silverware.
Dust on the bed.
Objects in motion
tend and are tended.
But ony purgyn in thir joyful planis
And here mon duel, quhil that lang day
Dust in the water-drop.
Dust in the brain.
The ship shattered,
wreck gone to muck.
You had a talent and this was it.
Objects at rest
Haibun without Travel or Closure
Before Robin Ekiss presented a poem during her reading at Bird
& Beckett Books & Records that made me think about Lee
Van Cleef and the missing joint of his left middle finger,
rumored to have been severed in a bar fight or car wreck,
I listened to a song by the Afro-Asian-Choctaw-American jazz
drummer Anthony Brown called "Fire Storm," in which he evoked
with a pair of sticks and a tom the firebombing of Tokyo by
the Americans on the night of March 9 and the morning of March 10, 1945,
in which 334 B-29s dropped 1,700 tons of bombs (the equivalent weight
of ten blue whales or 77,180,000,000 grains of rice) on sixteen
square miles of Tokyo, killing by the lowest conservative
estimate 100,000 people, "more immediate deaths than either
of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," something
I had not known, although you can see on Wikipedia the
photo (taken by Koyo Ishikawa) of the body of a woman
who was carrying a child on her back when the flames hit, she
is lying on her face with her leg bent as though still running,
and the child is beside her, you can see the unburnt cloth
or skin on her back where the child shielded her spine
from the blast, they are ashes, and in the face of this later
it's hard to remember that Van Cleef, whose gravestone
reads "Best of the Bad," lost his finger constructing a dollhouse
for his daughter, and emotion recollected in tranquility
is a luxury only granted to those still alive.
A friend who is a painter recently did a piece
called SALT in which she took a canvas
and tied it to a rock in the Pacific Ocean.
Three weeks later she went back to retrieve it,
but the rope had broken and the canvas was gone.
So she did another piece called SALT in which
she tied a canvas to a rock in the ocean
with stronger rope and left it for three weeks.
This time when she went back, the rope remained
on the rock but the canvas was once again gone.
So she did a third piece called SALT in which
she bolted a canvas to a rock in the ocean
using industrial-strength stonemason's tools.
Three weeks later, she went to retrieve it
but the canvas had torn free and only the wooden
frame remained, fastened to the rock;
this is what she displayed, retitled SOLD.
Several weeks later, in Japan, a painter showed
three torn pieces of blank canvas that had washed
ashore over a period of nine weeks and which
he called SILT. This poem is a literal translation
of a poem by a friend of the Japanese painter
who wrote about this process and what it might mean.
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