Two poems from Chris Schlegel’s You Can Count on Me
followed by a note on the author
I Have Wasted My Life
I heard her introduce herself as Star
and once when working in an open garden
in East Oakland (folding soil into mason jars)
I met a grower named Gravity Gordon
who showed me furrows each for squash and yams,
told me at the fire her father ran a bar
past Martinez, raised dairy goats, and kept Mouflon rams.
We’d ridden side-by-side to Hermannplatz,
she in the Dutch manner, hair in a braid,
socks to the calf, skirt over shorts, the FAZ
in her busted orange DMK milk-crate
and sat the afternoon by the bocce court
as pensioners marked scores with savoy knots
(an extra turn in the line if the winners played one short).
Mara and I stood on President Street.
Workmen pulled down the summer scaffolding.
She touched me while still staring at her feet
and I pressed my lips to the blue bandana, holding
her head, telling her sorry, but I couldn’t.
The rise of the park’s near edge resembled wheat.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want. I did. I couldn’t.
Tim Fehr and I made Lake Champlain by nine …
his hooded eyes and yellow Sauconys …
we came to the campsite, hoping to swim again—
he rubbed more Echinacea on his knees,
Holly’s idea, the beachhead road obscured
by a narrow creamery, whose eglantine
rained down, eight years ago, on the painted wooden gourds.
Kalen knew Tim, and I Elizabeth—
we’d dropped, Kalen and I, Rob’s second badge,
so there we stood outside, straining for Death
and Chad Vangaalen’s voice beneath the sludge.
My father and my brother lost their jobs.
The arrow flew. The plover had its breath.
The bike was hers. The helmet and U-lock were Rob’s.
She’d wait on the concrete stairs to let me in …
I thought the saying went, “First gradually,
then all at once”—that it was Tennyson,
but she said Hemingway, and “suddenly,”
both being on her comps (onward to Honors).
She read Zukofsky to me, “A-11,”
making so little of it save for shape, “for honor.”
I shaved in the basement, walked to work at eight,
had lunch, copied the minutes, faxed the board.
Das weisse Band I caught on its closing night
and Ellen flipped the locks in her uncle’s Ford
after her shift, as June swept in twice over
by the D. & R., where Sean had launched his kite.
Under the lindens’ shade worms traced the tufts of clover.
Sonatina in Beige
“One spits on the sublime, one lies in bed … ”
“Some days hell seems so very, very near … ”
Two years spent smoking languidly in bed,
hell and an undershirt. The shrub is near
but the scent—it hangs. Our Yorkshire lad keeps reading—
huddled in black—lonely—roommate in Reading
with his new girl, “Hi John, Till Sunday, Chris.”
So this is growing older—drinking a beer,
paying for two (what use in blaming Chris,
poet demi-maudit of bitter beer,
cowlick and lord.) He wants only to live,
to know beyond the borough where men live,
and what they do, and sometimes how they speak.
“Now comes the evening of the mind.” Go, speak.
Born and raised in Berks County, Pennsylvania, Christian Schlegel is a doctoral student at Harvard; his first book, Honest James, was published by The Song Cave in 2015. He lives in Beacon, New York, with the poet Rachel Mannheimer.