A Poem by Alice Bolin

I Like Things I Can Understand

In which I grieve the summer, the hour
when I feel myself my only friend.
We drove back from the swimming hole
close enough to the wildfire to see its red,
those cars pulled from the interstate
agawk. And yesterday a troubled plume
behind the mountain, thunderhead or growth of smoke.
I know I’m failing in some ways,
covered in particles of splendent air,
left by no means without storm or time — but how
to shake the guilt of the avenues,
the osprey, to eat a nectarine
in an inner tube, the gold sun on gold,
the way you live in friendship
as a satellite to yourself? To do:
to tiptoe around: a fuck, a game
of hypotheticals, the brilliant scent
of smoke and rain when I walked outside
this morning, I don’t want anyone
to be jealous. (If you can’t think of something
just say what really happened.) I was up all night
sweating from sunburn and future disappointment — 
this thing is a letter to what I want
and can’t get at, I will make a poem
out of your body, I mean
take. Sure it’s a surge, a nice upswing,
how the universe draws to a point of beauty
here, where smoke heaves the sky
and helicopters bring water from the river.
But there are always fissures: casements open
to the wet night, the magazine can’t bear
the white stress of its binding. At the swimming hole
we walk into the water to seal ourselves
in a little cave, a mountain’s mouth of stone.

Alice Bolin’s essay collection, Dead Girls, is forthcoming from HarperCollins.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.