Poem of the Week | February 09, 2010

This time, our poem of the week is from Issue 32.4, and our poet is Daniel Anderson. Of “Provinces,” he writes: “Initially, I intended for “Provinces” to be a brief sketch about some kind of intelligence officer and his smug underlings.”

Daniel Anderson’s work has appeared in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, Harper’s, The New Republic, The Southern Review, The Sewanee Review, The Best American Poetry and Southwest Review among other places. He has published two books of poetry, Drunk in Sunlight (Johns Hopkins University Press) and January Rain (Story Line Press), and edited The Selected Poems of Howard Nemerov (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press). His honors include a Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bogliasco Foundation. He currently teaches in the English Department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Provinces

Moonglow projections on a screen reveal
A drunken row of huts.
It’s difficult to tell if those are goats
Or just emaciated cows
Grazing at weeds among some haycarts.
It is a chiseled, godforsaken place.
Unmapped. Ambiguous. Potato-beige.
Nothing glints. Nothing sparkles.
Not one thing nourishes the eye.
But lately, on the hamlet’s western edge,
There have been strange movements-
Convoys of trucks arriving after dark.
The construction of a generator shed.
An ever-slight increase
In local population.
To get there would require,
For one of these distinguished, graying men,
Light packing and a taxi ride,
The shuttle up to JFK,
A change of flights in Frankfurt, then
Another eighteen hours over land.
Ice paddles in a water-filled carafe.
Someone has brought in pastries on a tray.
A pewter, blue light bathes
This undersecretary and his staff
Who must consider what it means
Now that reliable informants say
The silo and the splintered barn conceal
A weapons cache and drums of surplus fuel.
Within three days the village well,
That laundry drying on the line,
The smokehouse and the school
Will lie in calculated heaps
Of bloody rags and planks, while you or I
Watch college football on TV,
Or bitch that it’s been weeks
Since we’ve had any decent rain.
It’s true. The purples and magentas drain
From our hydrangeas, and the lawn
Is August-straw and parched.
Our fig trees and magnolias weep
From nearly seven years of drought.
Each night we track the surging cost
Of gasoline, the market’s steep,
Inconceivable decline.
The polar ice caps melt.
The sea’s green waters warm and rise.
It is a dull, protracted age
Of worry, ambiguity, and doubt,
And yet the neighbor boys play otherwise
Who, armed with plastic M-16s, patrol
The pruned, bird-busy hedges where
Three others twitter, shush themselves, and wait.
Crouching like fedayeen,
They rest their rifle barrels on a gate,
And when they open fire
Their girlish laughter nearly drowns
The clack-clack-clacking of their guns.
But there are also other sounds:
Wind chimes. A hammer somewhere whacking nails.
The sighing of a passing car.
Our small tomato garden goes to seed.
Reading her magazine, my wife enjoys
The tender blessings of the evening sun,
And everything seems kissed
With coral, gold, and lime.
Thank god, I sometimes think though never say,
That this is where we are.

 

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