methow grist 2011-2014 archive


The Circumference Is Everywhere

I lost my brother twenty three years ago.
At fourteen,
He was already a ghost,
Twisting on a toxic axis,
The slow poison working its way
Into his soul.
But a week ago, he called me.
Auntie Jeanette is failing, he said.
You should go home.
Where are you?
I asked.
Never mind, he said.
You just go and see your Auntie.

After seven hours of driving,
Twenty nine years of my life
Have been obliterated.
I am ten again,
Traveling past the houses
Where the families of my friends
Burst into flames,
The house where
My own family’s hot grief smoldered,
Remembering the night
It finally exploded,
Threatening to incinerate us all.
Our auntie came for me,
Leaving my older brother behind
To keep our parents alive.
As we drove away,
I watched him through the window
Of the pickup, getting
Smaller, until
He was

You didn’t bring the children,
She says across the yellowed vinyl cloth.
I say something about them missing school,
Maybe for spring vacation.
It’s complicated, I add.
Your children need to know
Where they come from,
She says slowly.
I let her words jostle
A bit
Behind my forehead
While we sip Folgers
And drift in a skiff of wood smoke.
You can bring them in spring, then,
She says.
It was only pneumonia,
So everyone
Should stop trying to bury me,
Ending with the kind of laugh
That bushwhacks downward,
Settling deep in the lobes of her lungs.
I watch her as she tries to will away
This gathering darkness
Like she has every other.
But I have lived by this stove
In this small sanctuary
For too many years,
And have come to know
The price of such fierce vigilance
In places like these.

There are times
When I don’t know who I am.
I drift between two narratives,
Acting in both,
But never really at home in either,
Envious of the certainty
With which other people
Seem to live their lives,
While I tinker
Like a watchmaker
With each spring and spindle of my own –
Taking it apart,
Putting it back together –
Hoping somehow,
To stumble upon my own longitude.

When I get home,
I let myself in
And stand for awhile,
Eyes closed,
Trying to peel off
The layers of so much abandoned resolve.
The cat purrs.
The clock ticks.
The quiet is thick and complete.
I kiss the soft eyes of my sleeping children,
And climb into bed,
Pulling myself gently
Against my wife’s back.
She stirs,
And asks sleepily if I’m okay.
I say over the noise
Of the other voices.
I’m okay.

From David Asia’s online collection, ‘Conjugating the Verb To Be: The Poetry of Time and Place’


Have a comment? >>