Ars Poetica, without Child or Song

by Patrick James Errington

Autumn, and everything is the last of its kind.
In this town, as in others, you grow up simply

because there is no other choice. Each morning is
an empty child’s bedroom, the furniture dismantled
and set out in boxes on the lawn. I would tell myself

it’s all for the best, if it were; better, maybe, better.
Evening comes hand-me-down, someone else’s name

in felt-tip on the label. I find myself in this poem as
if sent to fetch something—I keep forgetting what.
It was important. I’m sure. My hands stammer

my pockets. Every finger is a thread worried free.
How long have I been standing here? Dishwater

gone cold up to the elbow. Through the window
the trees are raw as nerves and there are days I walk
in on myself as though caught naked. Days I feel

as if written, every movement measurable, every grief
just the name for grief. I remember reading, once,

that we take up a language and set the world to it.
All my old homes outgrow that word while winter
creaks in the stucco like a promise I broke to keep.

There could be worlds set, not to nouns, but to songs.
Love sounds, these days, so little like love, and some nights

I slip from beneath my vocabulary, move, barefoot,
between pools of unsung things spilled across the floor

like moonlight: the bedroom, kitchen (the blue
of the oven clock fingering the cutlery), the living
room, staircase, a long hall. If I could tell myself

I wouldn’t. The quiet is a room without a purpose,
with nothing there to find, nothing to take back.

Published on March 24, 2021