Today's poem is by Benjamin S. Grossberg
Time and Place
Because I seem unable to get a handle
on either, I have been tempted lately to confuse
time and place. It starts like this: you call
wanting to come by tomorrow. Six o'clock
would be an empty parking lot in Flagstaff,
sundown everywhere, sky busted up, busted open
belly, red and white for miles. Nine would be
Holmdel Park in May: in my hometown,
you wouldn't have heard of it. Except
we'd be there, on the hill above the lake,
bower hidden by the land's rise and fall.
The problem, of course, is that these places
recall other times, and the present becomes
impossibly layered. Somewhere between six
and Holmdel comes (becomes) the fear
that I can't love you and that, all these years later
(measured as you'd expect in an accumulation
of place), I no longer have the fortitude
to leave anyone. What happens then?
On the phone, we agree seven-thirty. You will
"spend the night," which is a time
that involves a place, and a history: wakeful nights
next to men with whom there is
something unsaid. All those unspent nights.
Do you want to share a time and place
if it requires sharing a history? Recollections
of snoring bodies like a personal affront,
backs big and distant as drive-in movie screens,
and me tensed, blinking, wondering
what in that place could pass the time.
Do I want you to come over? Of course. But
perhaps in another place and time. I might say
I'm not in the right place for this, for us; and,
it's not you, just that the timing isn't right.
Except both would be lies, or at the very least,
conveniences. Imagine, in a black vacuum, no up,
no down, not even on the same plane: two men
(helmets, space suits) holding opposite ends
of a phone line. "Can I come over?" crackles
through static, in a context beyond "where" (no
common referent), outside "when" (some blather
about Einstein, and both of us implicated
in the speed of light). Then, lover, you'd hear
my answer clear through the ether: "Of course,"
then, "no," and "I want you; I want you; I want you."
Copyright © 2006 Benjamin S. Grossberg All rights reserved
from Southwest Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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