Those Years
Roger Craik

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From "Those Years" by Roger Craik.

Going West

That winter, four years after your marriage broke down
in all but name – but name to you was everything –
and you were dithering still, unable to divorce
or even to discuss divorce
but marveling, instead, at each
succeeding aperçu for months – yes, months – on end
for what it meant,
for what it told you new about yourself
while all the while your thirties trickled by in
talk,
beside myself at last I one day flung my car
upon the freeway whose gigantic sweep could bear
me unencumbered clear along the world’s circumference across America
away from you.

As on either side the black
uninteresting sticks of trees staked past,
and thin-blown cloths of fields at their own pace
unhurriedly,
and cars and semis going twice as fast the other way
beyond the median rail ridged grey as migraine in a
          state-owned no-man’s-land,
I,
stiff-armed at ten to four,
was thinking everything and nothing all at once
when to the right my eyeball snagged
a something, perpendicular, dark,
and hooked.

I could not turn to look,
but over ninety miles against the snow
its image staked itself the question of itself
across my retinas – a gentleman’s umbrella, all the air
wrung out of it, absurd
as the thrust that thrust it there, outré-orthodox,
into the boondocks soil that froze around it
who knows when.
Forgetfulness, was it, or an argument,
or even a bet how long it would stay
upright
as if abandoned by some blue-sky businessman,
on an off-color day, on entirely
the wrong continent, truant from a painting by Magritte;
or was it hatstanded there by some John Steed
almost half a century after his hour, heading west
through Ashtabula, Painesville, Mentor-on-the-Lake,
indulging in a final freak of Englishness?

Two hours at least I pondered thus,
skirting Cleveland’s eastern suburbs, bearing south.
I even thought to write about it, too.


A furled umbrella rigid in the earth.
The strange beginnings of forgetting you.

 

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