So here’s this semester’s news: I jump the fence and run the track madly at night, in some fear of university police. The bushes and trees sigh in the wind. Inky blurred figures. At the pond, in the glow of streetlight, I see a grass carp the size of a watermelon, and many bass, and a dreadful sign: NO FISHING. The landscaping is an orb of glass. The clock tower simply a very large clock. Cousin of the calendar and chirping phone. In the mornings my lower back throbs with the passing trains; in the evenings my upper back’s faulty wiring. All the warning lights of my Subaru I’m treating with black duct tape and beer. Sunlight in the mail slot!—a former student’s book. But my heartbeats being stolen by a smash and grab committee. While schooled squirrels pause in the shadow of the red-tailed hawk. The Canada geese will stop a car or a car will stop the Canada geese. Like students, they walk in meandering lines. Like students, may occasionally preen or hiss or sleep near-dead in the shrubbery outside the dorms, alongside the small, wire cage built for the last remaining smokers. Are we meant to sigh or smirk, while their mirthful laughter curls into the air? Take a photo of the deranged? Toss them a tomato or a peach? I see you hunched in the corner like a badger, maniacally shaking your fist, barking out, “The university has all the charm of a street fight where no one actually lands a punch.” All the metaphors hold, yes and no. I am a writing professor, the status of a Canada goose. Shot of vodka in the coffee. Book of poetry. A marigold tossed into the choppy seas. I don’t feel actual melancholy, unless I overhear a teacher putting down a pupil—a definite sign of memory loss: we were all once, and mostly still remain, dumbasses. I’m drinking too much and my head full of gravel as I mentioned to you before, but my eight-year-old daughter recently invented a holiday (she calls it Looney) wherein the only customary practice is to place seashells on all the neighbor’s apartment doorsteps…From where do these wonders bloom? I do still hold the glow of childhood mysteries and running hard at night; ghostly tangles of low clouds and the salt of sweat…to name a few remedies to the rot of routine. You wrote your escape. But I’ll never need to likewise worry. As with happiness or body weight, the level settles: I am the writhing grub that lives inside the fallen nut. You were the tree. I know your sly advice: down there, the chirp of crickets in the tall grass. By the pond edge, rustling amid the cattails…a gleam of moonlight off a looping cast of line. Is someone there? Shhhh…not everything needs to be known. Just stay low. And listen to the bullfrogs: Loon-ey, Loon-ey, Loon-ey.
Sean Lovelace lives in Indiana, where he teaches in the creative writing program at Ball State University. He often writes about Velveeta. In his latest work, he helped edit a book for James Franco’s imagination (New Michigan Press). He has won several national literary awards, including the Crazyhorse Prize for Fiction. He likes to eat nachos and to run, far.
Artwork by Allison Dalton