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Make Believe

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We will eventually be archaeology, but now in America
I tell my young daughter the new headlights are a bluish-white instead
of the murky yellow of my upbringing.
She’s busy with her bubble-making, her dig in the flower bed,
her pantomimed banquet, phantom guests
dining on her small handfuls of weeds and grasses.
Precisely, the lit up jackrabbits appear in peculiar blue candor
under the stoplight dusk,
pigeons hued reddish are garrulous and incomprehensible as drunks
at the end of the cocktail hour.
It’s that time in America when the air is overgrowth.
The piquancy of coriander neighbors allowed to flower mingles
with fragrances we douse our clothes-lined laundry in each week
to cloister the body’s reeking.
Truck smoke from the interstate.
I’m out-of-doors, which is to say nature is hemmed in by doors, which is to say
nature is a category of my making, and I can’t say why the skittish,
black bugs flit into the house when there’s so much turf afforded them already,
but tonight I’ll crush a few with a Newsweek before sleeping.
Now, it’s that time in America in the out-of-doors beneath tree and trellis
and vapor trails of overnight flights
fare-thee-welling to London and Morocco.
Brandy in soda water, a xylophone jingle of the ice, I sit in my Adirondack
without my minute, Midwestern wife
who Tuesday returns from her summit in Cleveland.
It’s that time when I’m alone in America with my young daughter who startles
herself realizing the woodpile beneath that black oak is itself formerly a tree,
and she wants to know whether these trees have feelings.
It’s this acquaintance with death she so improves upon annually.
It’s in this precise moment in America that I realize this acquainting, this becoming
familiar, this cordiality with death is the entire task of her growing older.
Next year her ficus will die and the next year her minnow will die,
and it’s in these moments in America
when my daughter’s plump lip quivers in a preface to bawling,
when I’m alone and can do too little, I say,
I’m sorry life is too much, my love, I’m sorry my love, it isn’t enough.

Jaswinder  Bolina, "Make Believe" from Phantom Camera.  Copyright © 2013 by Jaswinder  Bolina.  Reprinted by permission of New Issues Press.
Source: Phantom Camera (New Issues Press, 2013)
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Make Believe

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  • Born in Chicago, poet Jaswinder Bolina earned a BA in philosophy from Loyola University in Chicago, an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, and a PhD in English with a creative writing concentration from Ohio University. He is the author of the chapbook The Tallest Building in America (2014), and the poetry collections Carrier Wave (2007), winner of the 2006 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and Phantom Camera (2013), which won the Green Rose Prize in Poetry from New Issues Press and was published in an international edition by Hachette India.

    Compared to poets as diverse as John Ashbery, James Tate, and Dean Young, Bolina investigates language, experience, and innovative writing. Poet Ravi Shankar, writing on The Best American Poetry blog, noted that Bolina “breaks new perceptual and sonic ground,” adding “he encapsulates the American South Asian immigrant experience, at least as I’ve experienced it.”

    Bolina was the 2010–2011 Elma...

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