“Reading” by Mark Neely

Mark Neely


Because he can’t say popsicle, the two-year-old
next door says possible! possible!
and I remember learning to read
in a green-walled bedroom
scattered with books about Buffalo Bill and the American
Presidents–turning the yellow pages by the moon.

This kid watches Disney and is in bed before the moon
rises. I doubt he’s even seen it. The older
I get, the later I stay up. Americans
waste too many nights on sleep—so much is possible!
Even when shadows fill the bedroom,
there’s light enough for you to read

my less than gentlemanly thoughts. Daylight reads
her morning paper, and drinks her coffee while I moan
with the alarm for another fruitful hour in bed.
In the dream we snatch the boy from his mom, crank the old
Accord and drive (impossibly!)
through every state, looking for unwritten America.

Let’s take some sunny Saturday and see America.
We’ll stop in Delphi, Indiana and have my palm read,
and when the oracle promises great wealth you’ll shout “Impossible!”
your voice echoing off a ridiculously gigantic moon …
Yes, passion is passe, an old
idea, left for good in some English bedroom,

but daylight always seems off-course in our bedroom,
this mess of paper and laundry—An American Tragedy.
But even dirty clothes bring back old
daydreams, especially the ones featuring that red
sweater you used to wear, when we circled each other like moons,
or wrestlers, or panthers, when it was possible

you would always look at me like that, possible
to call in sick on a Tuesday, spend the day in bed
and actually be surprised when we noticed the moon
had risen. Now I envy the boy in his mini-America.
Everything I read I’ve already read.
And for you, old

moon, my possibilities
are dust. This bedroom (where we once read
sacred texts) kills everything old, like America.

from Rattle #21, Summer 2004


Mark Neely: “When I was seven years old, I went fishing with my Uncle Jack. That afternoon I caught my first fish, a stunning rainbow trout with red crayon markings. As I pulled the trout toward me I could hear it whispering, ‘Let me go, friend, let me go,’ but it was my first fish, so I thought they all did that. I bashed it on the head, and we ate it for dinner. I write poems to deal with the guilt.” (web)

Rattle Logo