Lines on Distance

By Joel Brouwer b. 1968 Joel Brouwer
She stepped into the tub at dawn and turned
on first the radio and then the tap.
The Predator operators of Nellis afb
have as much or more ptsd as pilots
who fly. Down the hall and oceans distant
I listened to her work to wash events
away as quickly as they accumulated.
A sort of race. I thought of where the soap
was going. Targets glowed on monitors
in the base’s trailers near Las Vegas
and operators in full flight suits drank
coffee from paper cups and adjusted
altitude as I stroked myself beneath
the blankets. I don’t like to take chances
and haven’t been to Vegas in years. The pilots
call people who run for cover, black sperm
writhing across their screens, “squirters.”
Near my finish line she tugged up the puckered
rubber no-slip safety mat. The sound should
remind you of a time a doctor took
hold of your arm for comfort or leverage
and tore the bandage off. If nothing like
this has happened to you, imagine it.
The haberdasher in Diderot who stole
his wife’s dowry (long story) plans to leave
Paris for Geneva, sensing distance
will make him less guilty. She wasn’t coming
back to bed. She may already have left.
Villagers call the drones, which make
a buzzing sound, “wasps.” The radio
reported to an empty room. “An assassin,”
writes Diderot, “if transported to the shores
of China, will lose sight of the corpse
he left bleeding on the banks of the Seine.”
Asia’s always such a great place to hide,
but Geneva’s obviously more convenient.
Say she expected her husband to return
from duty in a month. Would anything
we did between now and then make us
any more or less wretched than we were?
The drone returns to Bagram without
the missiles it left with and a soldier
restores its complement. Either his name
is Dan or else imagine that. And that
a cuckold’s rage can snuff a bomb. I came
into either a tissue or my fist. This was
weeks or months ago, and I can’t recall.
When de Castañeda and his men clambered
down into the Grand Canyon in 1540,
they found the boulders which had looked
as tall as a man from the rim in fact
stood taller than Seville’s La Giralda.
They must have marveled at distance’s power
to deceive and to wake deception’s twin, oblivion.
Their women and homes forgotten. You can’t
hear their screams from here, but they’re there.

Source: Poetry (October 2010).


This poem originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

October 2010
 Joel  Brouwer


Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, poet Joel Brouwer is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Syracuse University. Brouwer is the author of several collections of poetry, including And So (2009); Centuries (2003), a National Book Critics Circle Notable Book; and Exactly What Happened (1999), winner of the Larry Levis Reading Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has also published several chapbooks. Brouwer has been . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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