I am a Wisconsin poet and a school bus driver whose mission, which I have decided to accept, is to teach high schoolers how to respond when an adult says good morning and kindergarteners that it's probably best they not lick the seat in front of them. I have published poetry in various literary journals, including Upstreet, Main Street Rag, The Comstock Review, Naugatuck River Review, Verse Wisconsin and others. My book, The Sacred Monotony of Breath, was recently published by Prolific Press. More information can be found at www.robertnordstrom.com.
My son and I talk politics
agree about everything
but it still feels like argument.
I wish to say but…
but fear but
has become a zero-sum
conjunction this evening
so I stare instead
at the ceiling
fan barely stirring
the humid air
in a family’s room
where we agree
A blowzy big-boned blond with cherry-red lips
asks my wife and daughter if they wish to hear
just the good or the good and the bad.
They choose the latter because the good’s no good
without the bad to measure it against.
My wife brings photos hoping for
a good word from the other side.
She shrugs and smiles when the dead
have nothing interesting to say.
My daughter feels bad when she’s told
her father has strong opinions about her life
and is not likely to change his mind anytime soon.
The night before, my son and I played darts
through pitcher after pitcher of cold amber beer
as he waxed philosophical
about muscle memory and
how the cerebellum doesn’t have time
to make the proper adjustments
when you only throw three darts at a time.
Soon after, my cerebellum makes a miraculous adjustment
and I play a near perfect game,
closing out the 20s in the first round,
running up the score, then finishing him off
with two bulls eyes in the final round.
Listening to my daughter’s occult adventures
I notice that she, too, is making a miraculous adjustment,
telling me she no longer feels bad about the psychic’s comment,
that it’s not as if she learned something
that wasn’t already known.
A Couple of Weeks After Her Husband Died
Before she begins she pours
a scotch with just a splash
and sits at the kitchen table.
Before she begins she cradles her forehead
in the heels of her hands and thinks
it never ends as we wish:
the final exhalation held
the sinking the sinking
into downy white silence.
She pushes away from the table
opens the closet door once again:
box of shoes and boots in the corner
jumble of scarves and gloves and mittens
on the shelf—jackets coats sweaters
hanging on decisions that must be made
must be made…
She reaches in
pulls out the old tennis racket
considers the swing she doesn’t take
at this life this damn life
returns the racket to its borrowed space
touches a sweater sleeve
shuts the door
the journey back up the stairs
skipping the middle tread with a squeak
taking wide berth around
the leg his leg (the one
he strapped on in the mornings
the one the grandkids snuck upstairs to stare at
when they came to visit) still
leaning against the post
at the foot of the bed.
Tuning In, Tuning Out
The TV pundit knows his audience needs a moment of levity
to stay tuned to the gravity of his diatribes:
so, he gives us, the conservative congressman,
cloak fallen, party animal exposed,
caught skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee—
the exact same spot, our pundit presumes,
where Jesus walked on water.
I take my own walk through the house:
there’s the dishes, floor to scrub, dog could use a bath—
soap and water seem to be the theme here, I think,
just as the TV shouts, Theft of Tide Rampant
Throughout the US.
I run for cover to avoid details
that might ruin the headline.
Because right now, this moment,
I’ve flushed—I mean fleshed—
the whole thing out:
The entire nation, TVs blaring,
container of contraband Tide in hand,
wandering through rooms eying
dishes, dogs, floors, clothes, souls
searching for something—anything—
©2015 Robert Nordstrom