Author's Note: I wrote the attached duplex initially under a different form and name. This version hews closer to the core of isolation in light of Covid, even with mask restrictions having become looser. Ashbery's "A Tone Poem," from which the new title was taken, seems to sum up the point a little better, as well: "It is no longer night. But there is a sameness / Of intention, all the same, in the ways / We address it, rude / Color of what an amazing world, / As it goes flat, or rubs off, and this / Is a marvel, we think, and are careful not to go past it." The same passage could also hold true for "Rincon," subtly pushing the envelope while also seeming to respect its boundaries.
Duplex: But There Is a Sameness of Intention
First time eating outside in a year. Mask back on and a Thank You trumpets— a Thank You sharp enough to slit my throat. Makes me stay masked statue on a pedestal. Masked statues keep their breath to themselves. They bat no eye when April’s brazen and cruel. April’s crueler this year. Climate’s broiling. Contagion hits the fan, hits the atmosphere. It hits the air like gulls through a propeller, corkscrewing shredded in the prop wash— a spiraling prop wash through consciousness which spreads me to the four winds, hemorrhaging— midair and clueless whether in climb or fall. First time eating outside in a year. 1 Title taken from “A Tone Poem” by John Ashbery, in the collection As We Know. An earlier version of this poem, under a different title, appeared in Verse-Virtual, May 2021
Rincon Point, Six A.M.
The sea tears out of its skin, a Lazarus deshrouding, navy against an orange sunrise. Surfers play Jesus, waiting for a wave to let them walk on water. No one talks—words hover like gulls, pick away silence’s magic— • so I say nothing and watch their bobbing devotionals, notice an imprint of huge feathers in wet sand. Christmas was last month. Easter’s three away. So what’s an angel to do with down time except to lie invisible on the sand, • arching like a cat, a wave, intending neither to leave or stay, to leave or erase its mark. The blueness reaches deeper than bone or sea bed, thicker than water, dredging to leave what it can on shore in a shush and quietude.
Originally published in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Issue 7 (March 2021)
©2022 Jonathan Yungkans
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