Monday, July 17, 2006

Heather Bartlett

Scroon Lake: June 8, 2000

I should tell you how it happened:
bunk bed with only one
mattress, just springs and the outline
of a black rectangle
on top; a sleeping bag, fully open
across my unshaven legs;
a wooden chair against the wall;
no lampshade.

I should tell you
why: the sound of a belt buckle
from chair
to carpet.

I should tell you, before
we go any further
that it happened more than once –

campfire in the back yard;
smoke through bedroom
windows; I stand
legs half bent,
inhaling and then
blowing back
through the screen toward the fire and
bottles and people and
cigarettes gathered
around it.

I should say that at this moment
it is happening
again.   You ask
Can you smell
the smoke?
or maybe
Are you afraid?

One eye focuses on the springs,
the other trying
to adjust; hand against the wall
for balance; head
on mattress –
no pillow.

Ask me again.

I say, listen and
look.  Breathe in
and out and
in.  The answer is in the sound
of reading, in the voice
of the poem
that still speaks
long after you have deleted
the words.

Heather Bartlett received her MFA in Poetry from Hunter College in New York City, where she also teaches. Her recent work has appeared in California Quarterly.