Nancy Eimers: Four Poems
To My Neighbors | My Father on the Camcorder | El Rancho: '50s Sub-Division, Phoenix, Arizona | Lost Continent
To My Neighbors
It is very late. Or it is very early.
No neighborhood is complete without those awake in a dark
untime. Up and down our bodies pain lights up
the shoulder, a muscle in the leg, lower back, the neck.
Wind in trees. The dayís words, its foolishness.
We sink to the depths of trees inside.
But there are different depths. Some of us have gone
only so far down. Is it black at the bottom? Is there
another moon? We will never have secret daylight
meetings to discuss this
or, passing on the sidewalk, know each other well enough
even to avert our eyes.
My Father on the Camcorder
speaks his gentle, mouthless narration
in front of the house
about the flow of time through the house as through an hourglass
of the visible, which to him
is so unremarkable there is no end
to what can be said of it.
I am moved by how much "now" his voice moves
smoothly along like a car passing down a street
early in the morning, before there is traffic.
A voice at ease, as if this were not
a transaction between now and then, living a life
and explaining it from the end of the driveway
which means having it, the entirety,
a house and his life inside, only by not entering.
What is original and what was only conceived
afterwards, the unfolding of the minute
of my father and mother
forward in time, all this is in the vertical telling:
the house as it is now, the improvements,
the house that was considered but not acted on,
the good intentions and regrets, those too,
the process of the house that made of us
this being-talked-about. The house that will be
is the only house thatís absent from his voice.
This does not interest him.
Nor does being in the movie interest him.
Behind the camera he is never tongue-tied,
cars pass behind and make a whoosh and even that gets taken
into the story. Not "story," for there is no plot.
Background sound, cars, birds, become an evidence
the future does not need him
to be in the movie, inside the house, or getting closer to it.
El Rancho: '50s Sub-Division, Phoenix, Arizona
Night with its longing not to be divided from itself:
night beyond our pall of lights.
How far up is it night up there? Is it OK
to sleep down here
when sleep is so impersonal we have not
the language for it, instead we have bridge and stairs and fire
escapes, we have driveways, French windows
and conversation pit and rumpus room,
we have skylight to manage the stars
as they cluster, or flow along as a river
of fluoresence coming around the bend.
We have numbers, and silence. On cold nights
the stars may look clearer, but that isnít the cold.
Itís the actual brightness of certain stars
visible above the rooftops in winter only.
Eighteen of the forty-five brightest
rise over streets that keep turning away from themselves,
stars in a pattern called the Winter Hexagon.
Night, you straight line out of sleep,
out of never-showy, seldom-rainy, mostly-clear:
listen to El Rancho here at the edge of the mother
city, we of the shake-roofs and cul-de-sacs
and neighboring spotlights that shine all night.
El Rancho wants a word
with you, a word for you, we have a telegram
to be sent from the shine, to be delivered
nowhere, light-years away, by a rumor of morning.
I walk past a yard that in the summer is meadow, now in fall a field
of ancient stems. An old woman holding a bucket is bent and working
at something out of my line of vision, at my approach moving deeper
and deeper into the brush. She seems to be deftly maneuvering to be
always not-quite-fully-in-sight, the way robins behave in winter,
keeping to the woods, flying out from invisibility in the depths of
one tree back into invisibility in the depths of another. The
thickly falling snow a kind insanity I wish for now, for us to be
speechless for once in the same world.
Nancy Eimersís third collection of poetry, A Grammar to Waking, will
be published by Carnegie-Mellon University Press in October 2005.
She has been the recipient of two NEA fellowships and a Whiting
Writerís Award, and her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and
anthologies, including Best American Poetry 1996, Poets of the New
Century, The New Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary American
Poetry, Paris Review, TriQuarterly, and Antioch Review. She teaches
creative writing at Western Michigan University and in the MFA
Program at Vermont College.