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)
More Poems by Forrest Gander