When does it happen?

by Daniel Sumrall

When does it happen? Along the way,
as landscape slurs into passing by
and you are immediately gone,
the road map of went and to becomes
a line of proposal soon to build.

I cant stress enough the uneasy
surge, the tremble or treble shudder
in the sudden sigh of highway signs,
screaming points of lapsing horizon
that come and glide on meaninglessly.

Every I is an outline of some
town, a border weaving the farther
away from those astounded eyes so
sure of and unblinkingly now, here.

Songs to an unseen film

1. Just another sucker on the vine, Tom Waits

Day in passing. She's sitting
in a cab all but severed
from it all. Floating in
the particular pleasure
of being chauffeured.
Casting glances, isolating bits and pieces
of scenes. In those second long glimpses
you can concoct all sorts of
histories or happenings for faces,
momentary memory. The wondrous thing
about riding is the blur
that becomes the world, hypnotic and fleeting,
lost in that space between
passing as they pass by.

Cold, having woken
with the quiet chill
that sometimes finds its way
into the bones, then lingers all day --
only put off by eating, drinking or smoking.
Huddled by the door, at once
slouching on and propped up,
infrequent shudders ripple
over skin, as she glares at the unnamables.

Attention falls on her cigarette,
the smoke rises slow and graceful
then escapes, violently, out the crack in the window.
To just keep moving, no desire to reach,
to just keep on keeping on, removed and continuous.

2. Fuga y Misterio, Astor Piazolla

Everything glazed over. A thin layer
of permanent grime over
the walls, glasses, bottles, stools and tables.
Light, filtered yellow by windows, comes in
having to fight its way along. Pour in
mixing with the blue-grey cloud, an oily stench
in the room slunk, hunchbacked and weary. People
endow places and places become possessed.
Ashtray erupting with burnt ends held
on the last visible edge and, lost
in an unfocused glare, every so often
hed dip his fingers into his glass
and rub it dry circling the rim.
The scent
seeped into his clothes as light seemingly
flowed past, as though it was all he had and didn't want
To the doors, putting sunglasses on and
lighting another stick, then stepping forward
into the midday sun. The street being all
but dead, a few passing cars, a few folks out
strolling on their way to elsewhere.
Pulls out a folded note. Glances at it,
then at the street signs,
then back to the paper. Staring
for a still moment. Turns about
and walks with purpose.

3. In a lonely place, New Order

Couldn't, wouldn't, call it traveling. That's something other. This is just moving, plain motion. Wandering? Not wandering, no. Wandering is without destination. It has no arrival. The difference between a traveler and a wanderer lies in arrival. But conscious movement...no one is ever conscious of wandering. Wandering is unconscious motion.

Could, would, call it drifting. Drifting is conscious confusion about plain motion. I have my destinations. They shift, but that's allowable; continuous, contingent movement, motion through movement. What was it she said? "I don't know how to respond and I don't think you even want me to."

You can't answer without conviction. But response, hell, anyone can respond. That's the error in most minds, response equaling answer when in fact it should be response versus answer. Anyone can respond, but to answer...was that what was meant by us both? Always a mistake, it's always a mistake. Keep it in, deal with it on your own, away from everyone else.

In a lonely place. Another is always needed. Not to speak, just recognize. You just want someone to recognize. A hand over your own clenched fist, not to increase tension but to ease it. Willingness through touch and gaze. Desire can maintain, it can occupy. But it can't provide. There must be another. Not an object, but another from whom passion for-with-radiates. Passion. It can't exist as a singularity. It must be from and to another at once. There must always be another.

4. Shadows in a mirror, Chris Isaak

Twice he looked over his shoulder
and saw nothing. Still, it sounded
as though there had been someone
there. Make no mistake, he wasn't
frightened or panicked, just annoyed.
Fallen leaves scattered across
concrete and pavement, scratching,
caught by the empty sound. Wind,
simply a natural illusion, was aggressive
in short bursts making you forget
about it until it rose up again.
When cold reaches the point of
cracking dryness, everything seems to echo --
the wind, the leaves, the moving of feet.

Grass, slowly browning and matted, gave
the impression the world was sad and balding.
The skeletal trees surrounded by their own fallen
didn't help him shake the image. He walked with
his coat collar turned up, head down, and
his fingers purpling from holding a cigarette.
The skin only warmed between inhalations
releasing that half-second warmth of the cloud
before disappearing. Excuses weren't much of anything.
He knew this. He knew he was fucking up a good thing,
but that hardly stops anyone -- not her, not him, not you, not me.
He hated questioning. The whole damn process --
all aspects of it, the asking, the doubting.
No answers.

There weren't always answers, just
as there weren't always reasons. He lied,
he was a liar, this, he knew, he had accepted it.
Everyone everywhere at every moment is
inventing themselves, they're narrating their existence.
And he was a liar because he was consciously deciding his fictions?
Fuck her questions. She'd just watched Casablanca
too many times: Who are you really? and what
were you before? and what did you do? and what
did you think?
They're not really questions,
a question is a question because it has an answer,
hers were just statements; without an answer
one has to invent, to lie. Is there any other way?
It was damn cold.

©2002 by Daniel Sumrall

Daniel Sumrall is currently completing a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Notre Dame. His poems and reviews can be found in the the journals Rain Taxi, 42 Opus, Locust Magazine, The Hyde Park Review of Books, Lightning Bell, The Literary Review, and Pierian Springs.

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