Two poems from Jonathan Weinert’s Indifferent Country
followed by a note on the author
Fearsome in his superhero sneakers, Jonah rides.
The light in the right shoe isn’t working; the left one
signals when he pedals. Down the sidewalk, crazy
with an after-dinner joy, he shouts and twitches on his seat,
snapping his helmet-hidden head one way and then another,
shadowed-on by early leaves and clouds he won’t remember:
Perfect. Up the driveway, with the wind disordering
the neighbor’s tall white pines, he parks his bike and goes inside,
the dancer-conqueror, and downs a slice of watermelon, red part
and a bit of crisp white rind. Later, during pre-bed rituals,
I hold his small electric body in my iffy hands,
coaxing on his socks and two-piece PJs.
At length his light winks out, and then the others, and the distance
in the darkened earth grows farther. Sometimes only dreams
can reach us where we lie. Opened in the silenced house
like books, our bodies fill with brilliant likenesses: the father dead
almost a year, the dark-haired friend who in this version
doesn’t turn on you, the sad-eyed emissary from the mountain.
On the porch, the landlord’s vine grows bitter on its lattice,
and the poison stars, exploding in their traces, cluster in the west.
Is there any fended ground in all the earth? When Genghis Khan
invaded Helmand, helmet-headed riders sowed the fields with salt.
They’ve found archaic scallop shells on peaks in Appalachia.
Foxes quit the bulldozed acres built with model houses.
Patient in the night wind, the white pines wait for us
to not be here again.
To My Sick Child, Half Asleep
Because I haven’t yet replaced the stones
Because the river’s a bad gray string
Because the blood won’t stay inside me
The sky fills up with antimatter gray
and the kitchen knife sings in its wooden slot
of how its handle hugs my hand,
its blade the length of a young boy’s clavicle
Don’t forget to put your slippers on, darling
Don’t forget the streetlight’s pale penumbra
spectral as projector light without a film
Don’t forget the thin white shinbones of the trees
I lever my heart out of its slot
and drink the cool black blood directly from the vena cava
I grip the jewel-blue handle, swipe piled snow
from the roof of the ticking car
Remember the pharmacy insane with mice
Remember the long bronze teeth of the pill dispenser
Remember your frail glass cup, your pale percussive medicines
Because I drive through snow to the white facility
Because the knife will have its way
Because the earth’s a cloak of blood and paste
Because you’re prone
Jonathan Weinert is the author of In the Mode of Disappearance, winner of the Nightboat Poetry Prize, and Thirteen Small Apostrophes. He is co-editor, with Kevin Prufer, of Until Everything Is Continuous Again: American Poets on the Recent Work of W.S. Merwin. Jonathan’s poems and essays are published widely, Recent work appears or will soon appear in Plume, Southwest Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Massachusetts Review, and Copper Nickel, where Jonathan received the Editors’ Prize for poetry in 2015.
History first appeared in Harvard Review.