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Jennifer Atkinson

Landscape at 3rd Ave. and 1984

Interior Landscape with Blue Horse

Landscape with Jeffers and the Connecticut River

Landscape at 3rd Ave. and 1984

I have to imagine, from here, the rain
streaking the tree trunks, the creekbank weeds
soused and toppled,
                                   the creek picking up silt and speed
on its way to the river,
                                   the river, the Mississippi, the sea
where its green and its froth will disperse in the salt.

                                    Bob’s up the road
planting seeds in the downpour,
vines to climb over his thin-roofed shack ---
a vision he has
                                   of leaf-light through the windows,
hollow gourd baubles tocking
                                   at the plywood walls.
Jan’s halfway to work at the bookstore,
Eric’s teaching in Cedar Rapids.

I’m inside our first house,
                                   Eric’s and mine,
with the heat turned up, my wet clothes stuffed
in the washer direct,
                                   waiting --- naked, in the kitchen corner
out of the side- and picture-windows’
lines of sight ---
                                   for the mailman to slog by.

Caught out of the current,
a second on the thought of us all ---
the blocks from Muscatine to Court,
the wider swath between rivers and highways, under rain ---
each of us for the moment transfixed.
                                   Figurines in our cases
glazed against damp.

The doorknob’s swollen reflections dull.
The mailbox grates on its hinges ---
                                   open, shut.
One pulse-beat, another, the rain.

Boots on the driveway gravel,
his shoulder:
                     onward, onward, on-

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Interior Landscape with Blue Horse

I’d have thought we had forgotten the prairie’s
luster and breadth, the every which where way
of the wind, the compliant dignity of grasses,
their panicles swayed like peacocks’ tails,
the summer afternoon racket of crickets
and after, the widowy thrift of snow-broken straw.

And yet in the doctor’s third-floor waiting room,
a child with a blue horse, his mother,
a patient with clipboard, and I, another
patient with clipboard, watch the receptionist
spray a lush 6 x 8-inch grassy swale
and trim the yellowing tips of the blades
even and level with hairdresser’s scissors.

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Landscape with Jeffers and the Connecticut River

Oat stalks hang their oat-heavy heads. 
Panic grass shakes in the wind
off a goldfinch’s wing.  Cause,
                                                        effect, and cause.

Drone, like the bee, of goldenrod and aster,
tool of the stick-tight and cockleburr,
I park and wade into high riverside grasses.

A dog gnaws on a box turtle, a spider rides
a floating log, straining the air of its midges and leafbits. 
A fisherman lazy as late summer current,
                                                                         casts, reels, and casts.

It occurs to me I am alive, which is to say
I won’t be soon. Robinson Jeffers
from Carmel Point,  in “an unbroken field of poppy and lupin”  

ashamed of us all (of himself ), took solace in time,
in salt, water, and rock, in knowing
all things human “will ebb, and all/
                                                                      Their works dissolve.” 

Me, too. And I’m not always so patient.  I’ve caught myself
wishing our spoiler species gone, just swept away,
returned to rust and compost for more deserving earthly forms.  

Meanwhile, flint arrowheads turn up among the plastic
picnic sporks, the glacial crags and bottom silt. 
Hawks roost across the river on the now defunct                                              
                                                                                       nuclear power plant cooling tower,

flotsam left at the human high water mark.
Like mussel shells, like driftwood or seedpod,
like the current’s corrugations in the sand. 

Here, on this side, a woodchuck sits up, lustrous,
fat on her chestnut haunches, (she thinks herself
queen of her narrow realm) and munches
                                                                         the fisherman’s crust.

Who wouldn’t smile? Who doesn’t pity — and love —
the woodchuck and her like-human smugness? 
How can I not, through her intercession,
forgive for now a few things human? 

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Jennifer Atkinson is the author of three books of poetry, the most recent of which is DRIFT ICE. She teaches in the MFA program at George Mason University in Virginia.

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