February 14, 2021

Partridge Boswell


A British teenager is slowly emerging from a coma
nearly a year after being hit by a car, and he has no
knowledge of the coronavirus pandemic

That you can’t talk yet—can only blink and smile
    yes and no (both for perhaps)—makes perfect sense.
You’ll find words later, or not, to correct journalists’

and historians’ attempts. For now, what can be said?
    The shit hit the fan, the car the child. The world collided
with itself for a while. We were comatose then woke,

tidied up the mess and moved on. Your disbelieving
    eyes widen as if to say: Sea shanties? Really? We told
you the water was rough. You’ll just have to trust us.

Overnight, a winding cabooseless train arrived and left
    … it’s all the same and for the best. What’s this world
coming to if not change, for good or ill, a keelless rudder

against the waves? You wake at noon to afterthought—
    masked family milling about the bed, sensation returning
to your limbs. One day soon, sun will glance the dewy

pitch of your face and a word like joy will come fluttering
    out—just wait. No need to force it. The unthinkable takes
time to process and the clocks are still broken. Truth is,

you didn’t miss much, if anything. Another year at home
    glued to your phone, arguing over whose turn it is to take
out the trash. Some things are hardly worth forgetting.

Take it slow. Let your body and mind get acquainted
    like new and ancient friends who come in from the cold,
sit down for tea, and gaze out the window at something

long lost and familiar to them both—a buried sled or
    mitten orphaned from its string, a name perhaps—
emerging through the melting snow.

from Poets Respond
February 14, 2021


Partridge Boswell: “Slowly, we wake. Has less ever been more, or silence such a din?” (web)

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January 11, 2014

Partridge Boswell


I’m boarding my flight home from the heartland,
overflowing with hope for humanity and grace of good
people I’ve met, when the red-cheeked man in front of me
tries to stuff his oversized duffel into an overhead bin.
Unremarkable in itself, except the crumpling resistance
he’s experiencing belongs to the couple beside me—
their garment bag with wedding clothes now being
squashed to the size of a shriveled carnation. Rather
than seek the nearly empty compartment next to theirs,
he removes the couple’s bag and hands it to them,
saying it sure would help him out. Incredulous, she lays
their wardrobe’s wrinkled remains under the seat in front of her.
Not as if this is a big flight either, where individual motives and
ordinary desperation can skulk in a stuffed tin turkey of nerves:
just a crop hopper between Columbus and Cleveland.
Airborne, I gaze at the farmers’ neat patchwork where once
Shawnee sat on bare ground expecting an apology
and got the opposite from Mad Anthony Wayne. What will
it take, I wonder—a heart attack, losing someone close—
to bring the minutiae miles below into focus, for him
to reach for his rip cord and realize he’s chute-less
with the ground coming up fast.
“I’m just lookin’ at gate numbers to see where I gotta go,”
he announces to no one in particular as we taxi to the terminal,
as if his were the sole connection, our reason for traveling—
to keep him company and his airfare low, smile at his impunity
the way one regards a basket of severed hands of Congolese
rubber slaves. I unbuckle and haul my own carry-on out
from under his seat, the dry aftertaste of contrition like salted
nuts on my silent tongue. Why didn’t I speak up? I could have
said something, or from my vantage plagued him for forty-five
minutes, imitating with the tip of my pen a reconnoitering fly
landing on the white heliport of his head. At the very least
I could have winked—a mute solidarity for the woman
next to me and her husband who, seconds before the cabin
door opens, whips out a Playboy and begins reading.

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003

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