Sharp blank verse by Roxanna Bennett from the new edition of THE PURITAN — you never know who else you might find at such a venue.
I’m on an unbroken streak of never speaking,
to Stuart Ross though the spaces we share
are shrinking. The internet fits in my fist
but is larger than geography. We started
with a country, then city, I veered around him
on sidewalks where he sold his poetry. I had
no money then for words but respected his
all-weather commitment. It keeps collapsing,
neighbourhoods, parks, launches at bars.
Now we’re down to houses, rooms.
It’s not that I don’t want to talk to
Stuart Ross. Historically, in the decades
of my silent observation, he’s friendly,
accessible. I’m fine on Facebook, but
it’s complicated. Liking something,
a thumbs up, is the least amount
of social you can do. But acceptable.
We are satisfied with so little. Both
too much and hungry. I forget who
I am sometimes and have to hear a
poem to know. Anyone’s poem in another
voice not mine. I tried this trick with
Paul Vermeersch but he snapped my
streak by introducing himself. If you want
to go unseen never be early and alone.
Never speaking to Stuart Ross is like hoarding
unwatched Philip Seymour Hoffman films
so there’s some future thing to hope for.
It will keep narrowing, grouped in a living
room, crowded kitchen, cold porch, closet.
One day he’ll be on the other side of the
closed curtains that circle the dark bathtub
I live in, the hard enamel crusted with crumbs,
blanketed with books I never had a chance to read.
“Stuart Ross,” I’ll murmur finally. “Stuart Ross.”
“I’ve forgotten the bird. I can’t remember the sky.”