By Forrest Gander b. 1956 Forrest Gander
I’ll know the time to leave the room   
where I’ve been growing hair
from my face, drinking dark beers   
when the light in the lake bums out.   
That’s when fish
turn on their music.
They lie in a blue current
waiting for the moon
to pass over, and the fishermen   
with their lanterns know this
as they spill a can of sweet corn   
and wonder if they spoke
what they were just thinking.

I clear my way through the fog
as music will break through static.   
The frogs strike up,   
a window goes out   
in the Home for Elders.   
Don’t you wonder why   
it is built far from anywhere,
as though memory needs a terrain
for forgetting; blind   
driveways to lost roads.
As for my own parents, they did not   
grow old. What I know:   
dinners without conversation,
stars that shine for anyone.
I know my time
is brief. I know love of the cut sleeve.

I want to say
don’t feel sorry for men,   
those who leave women   
smouldering like cigarettes,   
those who are fond of burials.   
War is a habit of mind,
I swear by my mother’s gender.

Tonight sticks in the leaves
are slick as pilot snakes.
Wherever I part branches
no one is in a boat,
no one has stirred a wake.
Not jackknifing off the dock,
it’s hauling myself back up
that gooses my titties and makes my peter shrink.

Don’t wake the cottonmouths.   
Summertime. If you were here
and you remembered to stash your smokes
in a Glad bag so they didn’t soak like mine
we’d fall quiet now as pollen   
on water, I would
tell you the true story of Urashima   
and the turtle.

Forrest Gander, “Loiter” from Rush to the Lake (Cambridge: AliceJames Books, 1988). Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Rush to the Lake (1988)

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Poet Forrest Gander b. 1956

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Midlife, Living, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Growing Old, Nature, Relationships, Men & Women

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Forrest  Gander


Born in California’s Mojave Desert, poet Forrest Gander grew up in Virginia and attended the College of William & Mary, where he majored in geology. After receiving an MA in literature from San Francisco State University, Gander moved to Mexico, then to Arkansas, where his poetry—informed by his knowledge of geology—turned its attention to landscape as foreground or source of action.

Gander’s books of poetry include Eye Against . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Midlife, Living, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Growing Old, Nature, Relationships, Men & Women

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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