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Eli Karren

Portrait of a Small Town with Low Fire Warning Today

Once upon a time everything lived and died
and Shirley Jackson reappeared in a tiny room
that was neither wine cellar or French bakery
just bow legged floorboards and a river
pleading with itself to wake up or to get sober
so Shirley knelt down beside it slowly adding lapels
to a wedding cake where the plastic groom
had been lashed to a cross and covered in burning leaves
she kept muttering something that sounded
like imagine how cold this bathing in fire
but I could have it all wrong I don’t remember
anything besides the swimming glitters
my lips purple and her knife at my throat


The real chaos theory is how many people
from your graduating class married each other.
How many of their children crawl
through your social media feed, haunting
your old haunting grounds. The other day
I took a registry of all the places I bespeckled
my virgin lungs, and filled with pride
the slow decay of my body. Once off the trail
at Silver Lake and again deep in the glass
of it. On the roof of the French Restaurant
and again in the guts of the gazebo. Blueberry Hill
with the blueberries and again with black.
A hundred times in the forest, intruded upon
by horses and surveyors. I wonder if my childhood
has been demolished yet, if you can still stand
upon the roof of the lake, still listen
to the ghostly melody a stone makes
scooting across the ice. You said it sounded
like a loon having its call forced down its throat.
Such a violence in hating the things you once loved.
I yearn now only for the distant yips of snowmobiles.
Their devouring by pines and cedars.


It is clear to me now
that Pete Martell is the spiritual center
of Twin Peaks. Not the prom queen
or the log lady, but the humble
factory foreman. The one
who lives a good life with his hands,
takes time to let the salmon slip
through his fingers and smell
the fir needles under his feet.

When at a lake in Minnesota,
I thought more of shaving my head
than I did of James Wright. I thought
of farmer’s almanacs and rune stones,
the way folksy wisdom is the only kind
that doesn’t impose itself on you.

I thought about where the loons will go
when the great freeze comes. Why no one
stops me on the street to say
look at that cardinal in the dogwood.
The graphite in this gemstone
. We could
set each other straight, you know.
Then have lunch. Say: the things that keep me
up at night are exactly what I wake up for.

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