BOOK OF GESTURES
There is the giving and the taking and the taking
back. There is the day and the day is a woman
who loves you, the city bus kneeling and the city
bus lifting. There’s a boy with a thumb no bigger
than the moon. There is a silence and there is a silence
after. There are rabid dogs in packs of three,
a moment to call it poverty, a dead dust bowl
idea of wealth, a dead child in a posthole, delicious
intent turned sour, a country going west. There are
buffalo who stagger boulder-like in the dark.
There is the periphery and the periphery
of that. A coyote who has not eaten, a small steady biting
at her center. There is the bell in a town no one rings,
a statue’s weeping, and there is the weeping
of those who visit her, arms extended, supplicant
as grass. There is the marching of soldiers into villages
and the shrieking of ballistics in the night. The dullness
of blood and a trunk of dolls lodged in the branches of a tree.
There is the robe his mother wore, pink with one yellow
flower, ribboning up there like the flag of a ruined country.
There is the sighing of holy men who do not pray
the end of suffering but for the end of our willingness
to accept it. There is the ungulate that offers its neck
to the river. There are candle flames ghosting around
in the ungentle air. That painting of the boy
rowing out to anchored galleon. There is his happiness in going
and his dread and both are small spiders that live
in the catacombs of his nights. There are the people
who could not resist the sweetness of falling, the bridge
with Plexiglas, and the bridges without. There is the woman
staring in the distance at a carnival, a mother
with dull fruits clumped in a sac near the heart.
There is the coming of hurricanes and the touching down
of light, the sad notes of the mandolin, old hurt
remembered wrong, rivers licking red horizons, wolves
finding new throats, a palm opening, a wing. All things
a common smoke dancing wild in the hard music rising.
Jeff Whitney is a graduate of the University of Montana and the author of The Tree With Lights In It (Thrush Press). Along with Philip Schaefer, he co-authored Smoke Tones, which is forthcoming from Phantom Limb Press, and Radio Silence, winner of the 2014 Black River Chapbook competition from Black Lawrence Press. Recent poems can be found or found soon in Birdfeast, Columbia Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, Salt Hill, and Verse Daily. He lives in Portland, where he teaches English.