Things that Barely Move
The continents. The hour hand. The arms of a cactus. Your chest while sleeping. Two magnets shaped like halves of an egg. An egg. A spider that knows you see it. Love. A birthmark. The brain. Any play written by a sculptor. The two of us that day at the mattress store. Me, when I think about that day at the mattress store. Used cake. The price of string. Candles. The skull on your bookshelf. Whatever the skull is watching.
The last sip of anything will make you thoughtful. Sometimes a ring appears where we didn’t set a glass. I lay my head sideways on an old book and feel the characters moving. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the lonely part. When you were small, did you ever play with old toys so they wouldn’t feel bad? Every animal but one is an engine of the sun. From the day we learn our first story, we believe we have one. Here it comes — It comes here all the time, actually The act of swallowing is the same as surfacing. Finish your drink and tell me I’m wrong. Now imagine some divine giant has put its cheek to the roof of this house. Sometimes a ring appears. Which of us is lonelier? There will be no end of the world we can’t get used to.
Who was first to trace a dead body in chalk? No one seems to know. One book says it started as a courtesy for the press, a way to photograph a murder without the murder. But who was first to do it and why did they have chalk with them that day? It isn’t procedure anymore as it contaminates the scene. But an officer told me sometimes people go ahead and trace the body before he even gets there; they’ve seen it on TV and think it helps. He says police call this a visit from the Chalk Fairy. And once, he said, there was a witness who couldn’t find anything to trace with, so he used popcorn and candy which he later recovered and ate during questioning. I can’t decide if that’s artistic genius or just the loneliest thing I’ve ever heard. Nor can I stop thinking about that first man, because of course it was a man, who took chalk from a sandwich board or a frightened bartender. I can see him, a beat cop, bored but earnest, a young man with time to kill while a village doctor dressed in the dark and drove to town.
Brendan Constantine is a poet based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in many of the nation’s standards, including Poetry, The Nation, Best American Poetry, Ploughshares, Tin House, and Poem-a-Day. He has received support and commissions from the Getty Museum, James Irvine Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brendan currently teaches at the Windward School and, since 2017, has been developing poetry workshops for people with Aphasia and Traumatic Brain Injuries.