Fall 2009, Volume 7

Poetry by Christopher Buckley

Long Afternoon

It’s just the dermatologist this time, so I’m not waiting.
       as usual, to live or die—though it seems I’ve been
              in the blind from the get-go,

 never knowing which group I’m in, placebo or not,
       the sunlight drilling in all these years, salt spray
              biting at my cheek, the infinitesimal

dot that may enter and end me. Based on previous visits,
       I’m still going to be here a while, so I might
              as well open my notebook,

un-cap  my new Parker fountain pen picked up in the Thrift,
       and see if there are any good lines left in there,
               if, after a half hour spent staring

 at the esophagus, there can be anything inspirational to say
       for myself as I no longer have, as I once felt I did,
              all the time in the world—

those science reports left until the night before. The Dr.’s taking
       his time, though if I think about it, he’s just like me,
              racing from one thing to the next,

and working for the HMO, he’s rewarded for churning them
       out as fast as he can . . . still, he’s not driving a Lexus
              or living in style on the Riviera.

Nevertheless, the time, my time, the past, seems to have flown
       away to somewhere on the outskirts of Calcutta, or
              some other invisible venue none of us

have much of an idea about, or are in any hurry to get to while
       we sit in a waiting room killing—as advertised—time.
              I should content myself to still be

breathing, more than half a century after running around all day
       in tennis shorts, in surf trunks the live-long day, the sun
              evaporating above the unwavering

horizon line, imperceptibly placing its mark on my skin for later,
       while I hardly took a minute to wonder what could
              possibly be on the other side of the air.


Metaphysical Sketch

     with a washed out edge
                                      the plain air
of afternoon—
             starry leaves of the liquidambars,
past the apex
            of our terra cotta roof
                                 inclined against the blue . . . 
a moon
       white as the first pear blossom
                                    unfolding at the end
of March.

       Low in the sky, I can make out the lost
                                              continents there,
great ships under full sail . . . . 
                            A gust
                                   moves the dark
tips of the stone pines,
                      the crosshatching of light sinking
into the swells
              of the un-mowed lawn—
                                     the moon  diminishing
in the glazed, indeterminate distance
                                   like a white balloon,
its string slowly unwinding
                          from an unseen hand
some vanishing point . . . .

                          Then, it holds there, going grey,
thumbprint marking
                     the shirt sleeve
                                of evening
                                           so we do not
take anything even remotely
                             connected  to our lives
                                                as given . . .


BIO: Christopher Buckley teaches creative writing at U.C. Riverside. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry for 2007-2008. His fifteenth book, Modern History:Prose Poems 1987-2007, was published in 2008. Recently he won the 2009 Tampa Review Prize for Poetry. Read the Verdad interview and excerpt from his memoir, Sleepwalk.