Greg Hewett


                                    Munro Galloway

                                   Munro Galloway

Motel

 

In the desert of every heart there’s a motel

where you leave the numbered door open at night

to allow the random sphinx moth or stranger

to float in with blue light from the swimming pool,

like spirits, if spirits had flesh and were still spirits.

One, with a body perfect

as a busted-up cowboy

 

glued back together again,

enters to tell you the story of your life

like it was his very own.

Though the story is all wrong

in every detail, he’s right

about the solitary nature of life:

Every damn one of us comes from a place far away

 

as nowhere, traveling to each new no-place

to be missed, an ongoing kind of death wish.

And as much as you want him

to turn you into a country song, he won’t

call this motel love, won't call it loneliness.


How Memory Kills

 

A random story of an ancient Greek poet comes to me just as a fighter

jet cruises fifteen miles overhead

in this the least Greek town imaginable, at this, the least Greek bar in

the world, if they even had bars, the Greeks that is.

The blue twilight could be Greek, without the jet of course, except the

fact they apparently didn’t see blue—the sky was bronze; honey,

green; oxen, purple.

 

In any case, I’m bellied up, getting wasted on tequila, thinking of this

poet at a symposium, which was something like a Greek gay bar

but with more talking, philosophizing.

Most likely he was recumbent on a sofa, blitzed from imbibing that

piney wine they call retsina, and offering ninety-nine words for

love, when the pillars came tumbling down in a temblor, killing

all his friends.

Soon he could not remember any of them and cried, This is grief worse

than death!

 

Eventually he started to recall all the architectural details of the hall:

the orders of columns and pilasters, cornice, tympanum, the frieze with

bas-reliefs showing the gods in better times.

He then reconstructed in his mind the room with all of the furniture,

and slowly the dead began to return, laughing and calling to each

other across the space.

 

I start memorizing each mesmerizing neon beer sign, the length of the

bar, the wood it’s made from (oak), the swinging doors, ceiling

beams, glass-block windows,

wondering if I will be the one lucky or unlucky enough to be left to remember

the dead if the jet falls on this place, deus ex machina,

from the bronze sky.

 

And though no one here has yet spoken to me of the sweet, green nature

of love,

still something like love arises bronze-bright and clear amid the purple

terror of forgetting.


Seven Fish, Three Trees, Two Men

 

Maybe numbers are invisible, but look

over there, seven

 

fish swim in the uncountable water, watched

by one man seated alone in the shade of three trees,

though none the same—oak, ash, beech.

We sense numbers in our breath,

in a line of poetry, a measure of music

running through our heads.

The truth of, say, zero, negative two, or

algebra is outside of us and all of nature,

yet somehow the absence of the man who used to come

with him is more present than the school of fish

he is watching, and the vision of the two of them,

the one gutting and filleting iridescent trout,

and then wiping his hands and the reddened blade

on his dungarees, while the other works on

a crossword puzzle,

dwells solidly in the negative space of the trees.

If he could compose the right words in a line,

or come up with an elegant equation, he’s sure

he would have him back. But numbers and death are

 

different undercurrents of this world filled with trees,

fish, people, and so many water and so much words.


The Prodigal Dad

 

Like the sacrificial bull he always thought he was,

he returned garlanded heavily with opiates,

no less strung out than the day he headed off.

 

No bunting, no festoons, no celebration ensued.

One of the kids popped a wheelie on the ATV.

They hardly knew him, except for the brooding.

 

Some say he saw his grown son standing there in the sun

as the living word, as the shining sword that would one day slaughter him,

and grew so afraid he took a hoe used for snakes and struck the boy down.

 

Some say the son walks, a phantom among us;

others say a stranger flew out from the gas station across the road,

that he hid him for three days and nights in the dusty crack of river,

that they lived on dew gathered from cactus leaves,

that he healed the fatal wound at his temple,

 

that they found sanctuary on the freeway,

that it was a miracle, and the father lived on,

trapped in this parable, like an insect in amber.

 


Greg Hewett is an associate professor of English at Carleton College who teaches creative writing workshops and courses in modernism. Coffehouse Press has published three of his collections of poetry—Red Suburb, The Eros Conspiracy, and darkacre—with a new volume—Blindspot—published in November 2016. He has received Fulbright fellowships to Denmark and Norway and has been a fellow at the Camargo Foundation in France.
 

These poems are reprinted by permission of Coffee House from Blindsight (Coffee House Press, 2016). Copyright © 2016 by Greg Hewett.