“After” by Troy Jollimore

Troy Jollimore


If we must speak of each other, let it be
in the forms that monarchs and generals use
to refer to their rivals, as if each were known
to the other only through field reports
and classified intelligences. Let it be
in tones of wariness, grudging respect, and,
where permitted, mutual admiration.
Let our campaign be conducted on these terms.
And when people speak of the “break-up,”
let us hear in that the cold overtones
of the word as applied to a glacier: how,
when the ice began to shudder and crack,
new light found an entry, and the patterns,
evolving each moment, each moment formed
something lovely and fresh—a lens through which
a bright, eerie world not previously known
offered itself to be glimpsed—as the fragments,
the small frozen fragments, mindless and free,
tasting a life more open and salty
than any that they had known, made their way,
their steady, grim way, their cruel, ineluctable way
toward that sea, that vast,
that insensate, that insatiable sea.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004


Troy Jollimore: “After O Brother Where Art Thou, a reporter asked the Coen Brothers what their next movie would be about, and one of them—I think it was Joel—said that it was about a barber who wanted to be a dry cleaner. Everyone laughed, assuming he was joking, but of course with The Man Who Wasn’t There it turned out that that was an entirely accurate, if slightly misleading, plot summary. I find this film, about a man who resists his role as barber his entire life and then realizes, at the end, that in fact he is the barber, intensely moving and beautiful, not to mention unspeakably funny. Its hero, Ed Crane, is a man who has a vast number of things to say and who almost never speaks because he finds the language that was given him—the language that has been given to us—to be inadequate to the task. I suppose I think of poetry as an attempt to render language more adequate to the task of speaking about the ineffable things that our truest and deepest selves want to speak about. Anyway, the poem is, in essence, based on a true story; I did get a haircut recently.”

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