The New Order
By Jessica Harmon
There is an order to the world.
A flower opens and a bug lands on it.
An arc of yellow paper cups
From au bon pain
Scatters my floor into a sort of private map no one
But me understands.
I learn where not to go from it.
On my grave I want the words, “No One.”
I go to you.
This is a love poem and three words for “help”
Are “I love you.” I do not declare anything
For the sake of shouting. I wish this only to be a murmur
Between a scared wall and an open field revolving
In a canopy of stars. Pitch your tent close to me.
We come from the wanderers who walk barefoot
And don’t scar the earth. Birds warn us with their onyx coloring.
Sit beside me in a movie theater and edge closer
To me, the way it happened in high school. Young one,
I am old and with my cigarettes and coffee
I am scarred and on an edge.
An edge you cannot yet even imagine
Waits for people when they cross over into a cold/warm zone.
You begin looking back. You begin not seeing, anymore.
The way towards anywhere is now your road,
And I am skipping along it like Dorothy in braids.
My family on the Kansas side are all Baptists who appear
In photographs with half-smirks. They think they are beguiling.
My mother cooks Kazakhstani stir fry, hums to Glenn Gould
As if she was Glenn Gould in snowfall., despite the fact
She is in the kitchen. She thinks constantly of my wayward father,
Whose bed lifted in dust and paper cups scattered by wind
On the sidewalk. Her thoughts of him are only interrupted
Now and then by “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,”
And its beauty of inflection, or the innuendo just after
A bird’s caw in New England snow.
She is a poem, gentle as a chicken pawing at the ground in light rain.
My mother and I come from a shack
With a tin roof. The cabin was our palace of checkerboards and cigar smoke.
A grandmother who looked like Elizabeth II lived there with us.
She coughed into a handkerchief, drank brandy, and said nothing.
There was a dog named Toby, Sara Lee cake, and wine dated
With a date in the future. We drank the future as if it were vintage wine.
I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror in that house,
(I was seven)
The faucet dripping its liquid ghosts, and I head the absence
Of voices. I heard my voice already taken away, and I heard
Guitar music. My feet began searching for direction, an endless
Direction I would never find, set to that plucking of chords.
That’s how I learned I was a wanderer.
Before I met you, I wandered over to Davis Square,
Sleeping on the ground with a strange man
As slugs uncoiled their slick mystery for me at 4 AM.
The slugs were like snails without shells in a sea under streetlight.
I was held out of breath outside the mystery.
The man breathed beside me, bathed in flannel moonlight.
I wanted to win at something. I knew it was over,
I had already won. I had already won and lost a trillion times over.
Small trillium flowers dotted my proverbial grave.
This, even so recently. We only met a month or so ago.
It is so easy to be a living ghost, I tell you. As it was, I was mostly content.
All I need for happiness, generally speaking,
Is a new pack of cigarettes,
Tepid coffee, a half-baked metaphysics brewing,
And the sky to wonder about. Blue, green,
Blue, green. Then you came along like a vision of superb wonder
And cuteness. I felt famous for some inexplicable reason.
I wanted to become an unknown x just so you could think
About solving me. I think I have been successful in my endeavor, if you will permit
Me saying so.
I think we think about each other.
A leaf fell on my black lamb’s wool coat, yesterday
And you said, “Don’t brush off good luck.”
A bird shat on my hand the day before that, or was it the day
Before that? And I rubbed the guck into my coat lining.
I have found three lucky pennies in the last three days.
The clouds above are all cumulo-cirri. The world is stirring
In a new hum. Less contradictory, more song.
We are alive, at the same time,
On planet Earth, and we know one another.
This is what I want. You make everything brighter, new until it’s nearly newer
Than anything, even itself, yet you make everything ancient,
Even the story of an old red flower opening up.
A rose opens,
Beside a paper cup, as an earwig lands on it. Autumn
Is the best time of year for this.
Let’s kiss in the first snow.
Jessica Harman is a poet whose work has been published in Arion, Bellevue Literary Review, Nimrod, Spillway, Stand and Tears in the Fence. Her poetry collection Dream Catcher was published by Aldrich Press. She sometimes teaches at The Loft Literary Center, based in Minneapolis.
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