Leap Year

(to Diane Mehta) by Drew Pisarra

I lie on grass and stare at clouds while a friend reads the cosmic musings of Wallace Stevens,
             something about a snake and the snow and somebody's mother. Not mine. A figure more
             commonplace than divine. I don't comprehend it in full, even when my friend decodes
             two cryptic cantos. So kind! Small win: I do know what "harridan" means. Inexplicably, I
             am moved.

As for the clouds, they're the true mysteries. So too, the planes that fly beneath. So too, the trees
             that hide inside a boa of green. So too, the weeds, especially this unseen dandelion leaf I
             must not, will not pluck . These too are living things. Just ask the bee. Just ask the breeze.
             Just ask Wallace Stevens. (Small loss: I pluck it anyway.)

Two children race across the field, their voices raised with sputum-breath, as if sound were never
             enough, not as mere vibration. These spiteful sprites must spray the world with spittle.
             with death, their needs, with being. The siege. To run for joy. I never had a child, but I
             ran. I've run. Did Wallace Stevens? What does Google say? My thumbs decline to play.

I can't look for answers in the Wikipedia of whiteness. The frost has a splendor like a flame. The
             sand, the snow, the clouds, the very paper on which this poem lands will speak of
             absence by way of black ink. Is that a kind of balance? Shall we talk of the god-sized
             hole-puncher? The eternal mother? And if we talk of Mother then must it be mine?

Unlike Wallace Stevens, I cannot think in epic terms. Everything is small for me. Small and
             shrinking. "Picayune" to use New Orleans slang. These are sweltering days when the
             biggest question feels like an evasion, when it should be a knock on the door. Any door.
             So what's the reply? Is the answer a window? A hinge? The runner extending the length
             of the hall? The runner knows. The front hall stays empty.

The building in which I reside is ninety-nine years old. Stevens goes back even further. The A.I. who spits
             his verses on YouTube sounds ageless, feminine, calming in the creepiest way. I also find
             a random reader whose delivery sounds formed by the foam of a beer. When he says
             "images," it sounds like he has a cold. Everyone's so white — Stevens, the fembot, the
             stranger... Is this what he's writing about?

Stevens tells of elusive innocence. Perhaps it's just an idea, never real. What if we, like the Good
             Book claims, are born in sin, sin incarnate, sin begging for long-term redemption. What if
             the stupid happiness is vaped? What if the pain is self-enclosed? What if the what is not a
             what but a who and the who is a why gone wrong?

We live in a living disaster. We live in chatter. The clouds have dispersed. The sky has turned
             black. What a fib! This city's night hosts no absolute darkness. Not even close. There is
             always the streetlamp, the headlight, the illuminated windows of insomniacs, nursing
             mothers, and the infirm. Night exists as a purple haze. You know that song. Lately things,
             they don't seem the same.

Will Stevens grow any clearer? As I age, will I creep any closer to Wallace wisdom? Can the
             assurances of an insurance salesman make me feel more secure in my insecurity? Would
             I buy a bond from a man with a Northeastern accent? Who wears wool underpants? And
             prefers the clam chowders of Boston and Maine?

This year is a dud. And then some. Since this year is a year and a day. A painful reminder: how
             every day counts. Which may explain how I've aged a century in a single season, how the
             hair wisps and the skin crepes. In the blink of an eye, my nails have grown overlong. At
             most, I've arrived in time to bid to my former self goodbye.

A word and a universe

by Federico Federici

Drew Pisarra is the author of the short story collection “You’re Pretty Gay” (2021), the radio play “The Strange Case of Nick M.” (2021), and the poetry collection “Infinity Standing Up” (2019). He is also a literary grantee of Cafe Royal Cultural Foundation and Curious Elixirs: Curious Creators.

Federico Federici, physicist and conceptual artist. His works in «3:AM Magazine», «Jahrbuch Der Lyrik», «Sand», «Poet Lore», «Diagram», «Art in America». Among his books: “Liner notes for a Pithecanthropus Erectus sketchbook”, “A private notebook of winds”, “Transcripts from demagnetized tapes”, “Biophysique Asémique”, “EIS”.

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