And what if you have nothing?
I pick up a stick. Yes, that’s always first.
And next? I see what I can see around me.
Find the sun or moon. Find high ground.
Find north by where the moss grows.
Yes. Now close your eyes. Find them.
The sun’s behind. I can feel it
on my neck. High ground’s to my right.
North’s ahead. Yes. And the wind?
The wind’s west. It cools my left temple.
Yes. And next? If I can bug out
I bug out. Otherwise I go high
and dig a foxhole and tie something bright
above me. You’re forgetting something.
Right––first I cut my name in the dirt,
then I go high. Yes. And next?
I walk a loop with my bright thing in sight.
If I find a better stick I switch for it.
Yes. And if you need to cry?
I crawl inside my foxhole and cry.
And what do you tell yourself as you cry?
Someone’s coming. Yes. And what if
no one comes? Each hour I call
in all directions. I listen. Yes.
And what do you listen for?
Sounds that shouldn’t be there. Yes.
Sounds that should be there but aren’t.
Yes. And what have you heard
since we started? A bird. Yes. Another bird
far away. Yes. A gust in the trees.
Yes. Your voice, if your voice counts.
Yes, my voice counts.
Reprinted from The Low Passions: Poems by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. Carlson-Wee’s work has appeared in BuzzFeed, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other places. The recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and winner of the 2017 Poetry International Prize, he holds an M.F.A. from Vanderbilt University and lives in Minneapolis.
Tagged: 2019 Southern Festival of Books, Poems