The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Roger Mitchell
In Place of Thinking
Was it in high school, college, dream
I saw the frog’s leg muscle twitch?
That’s all there was, the muscle flayed,
tacked to a board, so that a few
cc’s of acid dropped on it brought
it back to what the teacher called
I wish I had a more exact
memory. Or a memory
that wouldn’t interfere with things.
A mind that didn’t need to think
it was a mind to be a mind.
A twitch in place of thinking. Thought
that could throw rocks across the room
at the drop of a cloud’s shadow.
It’s likely I came from a place like this.
The silken muck at the bottom of it
feels like an early attempt at skin
along the inner arm. The tiny bugs
on the water’s surface flash like a thing
about to break into thinking. The tufts
of last year’s grasses, cattails blown apart,
I know that raspy clatter of wisdom.
It looks good on the page but tastes like dust
if you utter it. I’ll take the moss
that curls to itself and never leaves home,
lichens that grow on rocks. And, of course, rocks.
Broad, level, varied, this place gives water
a break from all that rushing out to sea.
He would be twenty-six now, curious,
lean, possibly a runner. Still becoming.
He, too, would have found ways to resist
his father’s hope. What either hope might have been,
I can’t imagine. Certainly not a poet.
He would have met too many poets
to want to be another one.
He may not have been a he, of course,
but I call him that to honor
an old, predictable, foolish, desire.
Daughters are wiser. I learned that by being
one of the other. They’re smarter, too.
Still, when I took what flesh was left after
the D and C, from his mother’s hands
into my hands, I spoke to it
as I thought a father might to a son,
greeting and grieving in the same breath.
Why Did God Make Nettle?
The poem doesn’t know what it wants,
but it knows the minute it hears
the boot on the floor, the catch in the throat.
It watches to see if the snowflake stops
in mid-air. It cheers when the afternoon
fails. It dreams of tomorrow and kisses
it gladly goodbye. It doesn’t ask if
God made nettle, but it praises the child
who, when it stung her, wondered why.
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