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Two poems.

Be My Sherpa

Be my buffalo head nickel, my foreboding mountain, the leg I don't have to stand on.

What if there were big things at stake?

Be my ruckus. Be my shoot-out.

Be my corduroy, my perfect non-sequitur.

Be my cedilla.

Be my circuit breaker, my prosecuting attorney, my lengthening shadows at dusk, my nest of pine needles, my second-story window, my autodialer.

Be my hilarious fugue, baroque rococo.

Be my Boolean logic, my array of pointers, my system architecture, my database management software.

Be my cascading waterfall, my oscilloscope.

My engaging imagination, my radical metonymy.

Be my stone fence.

Be my axiom.

Be my if-you-stare-long-enough-you'll-see.

Be my subatomic particle. Be my ten lords a' leapin'.

Be my backbeat, my key of C minor, my surly apostle, my green sea birdgirl.

Be my long strides, my inscrutable syntax, my mystic chancellery.

Be these things. Be them. Be my maximum payload, my elemental munitions, my full complement of arms.

I'm asking for guidance here. Once I was water coiled under sand. Now I make my plea. This is errata. This is what I forgot to say before. Listen. Aren't I your blossom, your acceptable loss? The comet is ellipse. The mitosis is continental divide. It communicates within its own enzymic parameters. I'm asking you. All this will be ours. Every desperate clutch, every extenuating syllable. Emerge, come forth.

Be my long gaunt carnivore, my nullifying vision.

Be my simmering, seething, flickering, radiating, shimmering, and undulating.

Be my hereby known as, my previously referred to, my otherwise, my elsewhere.

Be my scandalous reparte.

Be my semiotic wilderness, my midnight blue metallic, my queen's gambit.

Be my unheralded latecomer.

Be that one move: the one where you cross over, go behind your back, put it through your legs, spin around, in midair, no look, no hands, with a wink, outstretched, half twist, and somehow escape with your eggshell intact.

Be my come on. Be my let's go. Be my it's a great day to be in Montezuma.

But I'm new now. I can never go back.

On Maps, Kill Means River

My ancestors were insurgents and mercenaries, their heads were put on pikes.

They left their families behind in times of crisis; they were orphaned by tuberculosis.

They paid for their passage with years of indentured servitude.

They fought at Lexington and kept fighting after Appomattox.

They said, "bullet in the head only hurt a moment; starve to death hurt a long time a-comin'."

They voted for Andy Jackson anyway.

My ancestors were greenbacks and no-names, Orangemen and Masons, objectors and bushwhackers.

They kept brass spittoons. Their favorite horses were Morgans. They fled to Canada and came back.

They couldn't spell their own name.

They thatched roofs, they flew in bombing raids and lived to tell about it.

They carried spoons west with them to melt down and sell.

My ancestors were buried in the slag.

They boiled down the wort. They discarded the husks and distilled spirits in the hills behind their houses.

Streets were named after them, but later renamed.

They swore fealty to two kings at the same time.

Later, the two kings found out.

They split up the clans, they abandoned the old country.

They were grain dealers, machine gunners, failed sharecroppers and seminary professors.

They were bricklayers and laborers, fur traders and ferry boat captains.

They left Delaware for western Virginia, they crossed the Cumberland Gap, they rode on a barge from Paducah to Pike County.

This is who I am.

Even if I go to college or marry a Catholic, this is who I am.

Even if I move further west or learn Spanish or live out my life on a leeward island eating kiwis.

Even if I join a cult or run out of gas on Alligator Alley one Sunday, this is who I am.

Even if I go to law school or renounce ju-ju beads as Satan's shark-toothed necklace.

I am a bearer of big omens, a wandering obsolescence, my own antidote.

ANDREW VARNON'S poetry appears in the magazines Conduit and Pleiades this spring. He works as a newspaper reporter in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
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Article Details
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Author:Varnon, Andrew
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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