Best Worst Year: Episode 88 (Or, Signal/Noise)

The frozen lake beneath you feels solid–so unlike faith or confidence. The Wisconsin Glacial episode happened nearly 50,000 years ago, a gap between ice ages. Even here, in the wake of the Poconos, it’s hard to imagine this lake being anything else but what it is right now. Cold. Permanent. Maybe that’s why you wandered so far out onto the expanse of ice. Feet dig into the surface tension. But this ice will thin, and water will rise to fill the fissures. Eventually the ice melts. Everything you are currently standing on will dissolve and return to liquid.

The dissipating stars were nothing but harbingers of dizziness. The sun is a broken yolk along the bowl of this valley. You were never too far from the pier. The random cabin in some luckless winter weekend. Two by two, partners, sleeping bags, and bottles or–

ceramic wings
a month of
unopened mail

You and glass made it an evening. Pour until drowning. Listless until awake. The cold was an invitation as capillaries slink deep into wool sweaters and heavy blankets. Snow undulated in the dark. Weekends like this got lost in the translation of days when you owed your time to no one. The flask gets buried in the snow. You had Phil Spector and the Wall of Sound on your mind–the layers of solid sound. The echo where space expanded between backbeats. Between your headphones and this whiskey, you imagined stanzas of a white field of action Willams dreamt of in Patterson. “The only reality we can know is MEASURE.” There is a poem for the taking here, but you would rather hold your liquor than a pen.

cageless canary
Ronnie Spector
dreams of bloody knuckles

Throat is the measure of song when you can be loud enough to wake the sleepless. You have outlived Saturday and are standing in the middle of a lake. The cabin is only a chimney and smoke. You will trudge back the half mile in the growing sunlight, a dead battery and a walkman. An empty flask and a sour stomach. You will be the only one awake for a few more hours. You make coffee and eggs for no one. You leave a note, pack your unused sleeping bag and head back to town. Before you get home, you stop at a Denny’s. You steal a coffee mug and barely touch the pancakes. The church across the street begins to empty. An army of minivans descends for brunch.

crows in a parking lot
stations of
the cross

No coal, just shadows along sloping strip mine hills. The breakers are abandoned. You stood in the ribs of dead giants. Standing water pools crystal over, but chemistry wouldn’t allow time stillness in such a way here. It snowed just enough to make your drive home cautious, and yet, instead of bed or headache remedies, you stop where train rails rust and no trees could ever live. This side of history bears the earth’s scars to you. Your grandfather worked at Foster and Wheeler, died of cancer before you were a teenager.

a fishbowl
of paper cranes

So many false starts to how you wanted that weekend to go. Is that why you ended up drifting for so many Sundays–nearly identical to the one you are currently facing? These fits, spits, and sputters arrange consonant clusters and rushed syllables into fractured constructions–writer’s block or aimless job searches. What has changed for you? Everything tastes so much more sober. Chai tea gets cloudy with almond milk. Your desktop Friday afternoon already plunging meat hooks into Monday. The memos and deadlines pile on. All paperwork is culminating to a silent ending. You are the thin ice above a line item. You know what spring ultimately brings to ground. You have traded coal for corn. Blue collar alchemy. The easy mark to sleight of hand. Someone tells you a friend back home won the lottery. You retype a cover letter, puzzle over salutations and proper punctuations.

oxford comma
making paper hearts
from pink slips

Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including The North American Review, [PANK] Magazine, Midwestern Gothic, and Smartish Pace. Follow him on twitter @whoismisterjim.

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