Gabriel Welsch, 11/21/2010
Current Occupation: Vice President of Advancement and Marketing, Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA
Former Occupation: Various: development writer, Lecturer in English at Penn State, landscape crew foreman, garden designer, sales rep for a water quality company, package handler.
Contact Information: I am the author of two collections of poems, Dirt and All Its Dense Labor (2006) and the chapbook, An Eye Fluent in Gray (2010). I also write fiction. Current work, fiction and poetry, appears in West Branch, Southern Review, Mid-American Review, PANK, White Whale Review, Right Hand Pointing, and American Literary Review, among others. I live with my wife and daughters in Huntingdon, PA.
And so it has come to this:
tonight I make plans to pay someone
to mow my lawn, a task I once
collected money myself to do.
Ignore the shame in that—
myself, I’ll try and fail.
And they will doubtless fail
to meet the ideal I have pruned
to faultless form in my mind,
will blow clippings into beds
I now maintain as an afterthought
to the profession I pursue,
where iris and peony and daylily
root into a past nearly foreign to me.
Dirt has always felt the same
and always will. The ornament
of my garden no longer has the practical
defense of existence, of being part
of my wherewithal. It is a bauble,
the hobbyist’s fetish put up against
the neighbors’ displays, so we might all
wave genially on Saturdays, weeding
and clipping tidy piles we gather
to let rot in the unseen depths
of our back yards.
Right off the plane, strutting tight jeans—
he rocks a faux-faded silkscreen
of Japanese, she an off-the-shoulder
black and white dragging the eighties.
They bump hips, and she rests
her fingertips in his cradling palm,
as if auditioning for a Palmolive commercial.
He has studied bedhead, her crafted tresses
suggest she abandoned her hair atop her skull.
They kiss and sway near the departure gate,
his white rimmed sunglasses crunching
the hair atop his head just a little.
The regular fliers hump back and forth.
Cap-toed Oxfords abound, blue shirts, wide ties.
One of the managers bothers to restrain
his tie with a little gold chain. We wear blazers.
We slouch the chairs, our mouths downturned
in weary concentration. Some of us pop open
company issued laptops. Some of us drink
bottled water. We try not to make a mess
of our fingers, our sandwiches, our laps.
We disdain the pretty man. We consider
what to read, what we can read,
what last night’s sleep will let us focus on,
and we default to USA Today. We tell
ourselves we’re serious. We see the pretty man,
white flip flops, snakeskin belt, and hope
we were never conspicuous, however much
we still may wish to be.
We ignore our Dockers, the similar shimmer
of our watches, our slim phones. Someone jokes
about the Michigan loss, and we chuckle.
It’s easier to live without the work
of yelling your unique self all the time.
Few of us care. We know, and that’s
enough. Our friends know—who’ve given
nicknames, who tell and retell the stories
that mute the rugged person we have
buried, that show all that is now unlikely,
all we see inside, apart from the world
before us on the airport table: the Tums,
the breath mints, the boarding pass, the pair
of cell phones for different orders, the file
folders, the new shoelaces for a pair of shoes
we hate to endure, and the empty chair
we like to look at, and love to wonder
who might some day sit in it.
The Day Job
Mondays work as re-invention,
the reincarnation of the to-do
list. Desktop littered in books
and menus, napkins and pencils
and the four-chambered heart
of a calendar in quarters. How
did I climb to this hushed
room and its skeletal lamps,
how did I find these words chewed
like a crust, and what is the density
of memory? Birds at the window louder
than keystrokes, the processor whir
signals that at least something
is thinking, approximating living.
The desk chair creaks more
the longer I work in it.
We find our way out of the grass
and air. We find our way into reams
of work, we find our way into envelopes
and scribbled notes that take
what we think and twist the ends
into a new language. How can we speak
what tendrils through our fingers
far from the beat of our heart?