William Olsen

Posthumous Cabin
November 29, 2015 Olsen William

Posthumous Cabin


And got away to it, and left the work to others
maybe twice a year for a couple few weeks,
and sat inside, and drove from, and took walks
and sat on boulders like life was all easy chairs.

And in comfort wrote some things down as from deep inside
that we might describe how obvious beauty is
and the reader fall away from his confusing surroundings,
and join us in the cabin, yet keep a distance.

And for most of the year that cabin was quiet
whereas the lake had everything and more to say.
Its scrolls un-scrolled day after day
whether anyone was there to read these scrolls.

And mostly there was reading inside a cabin:
an ideal, a fixed notion of such shelter as
admitted the elemental just enough, and no more.
Mostly we didn’t think about the cabin.

And could the present tense and an interrogative mood
reveal more than a brute demand for an answer
now, I mean now, gimme that answer now
in the plainest terms and does grammar really matter?

And shouldn’t we have put our memories to better use
and seen them forward in the medium of poetry
waiting to see where we were going with it,
holding its breath on our account, or the shore’s?

And if the lake was going to die, at least the shore
grew over with bristling cottonwood saplings
rooted to sludge—acrid sun-bleached algae.
The dock was a gangplank to water too shallow to drown in.

And the canoe remained upside down all year round,
and the whole enterprise of saying something with decency
never seemed quite heartwarming enough once
the climate of our opinion also started warming.

And all the ironies that rendered our voices naïve—
soft flames, our lightsome voices, pilot lights—
did we think we owned the world we (selflessly?) feared for,
each alone, yet more and more mutually frightened?

And if I was running from myself and you from yourself,
the clouds were blowing away too quickly for either of us
to fasten them on paper or on a screen
that ended up atop the heap of a toxic waste site.

And even when it was not too late, we both foundered,
obsessed with everything that was least about life,
the chasms and the Armageddons owing to untold grief,
what God shat: the stupefying self-and-earth-extinctions.

And for all and anything about life there was plenty of,
the simplicity, the obvious extraordinariness,
these the machines consigned to oblivion.
Yet we could still get truly and even wholly lost.

William Olsen has published six collections of poetry, most recently TechnoRage, Northwestern, 2017. His work has received the Norma Farber Award, the Poetry, Northwest Theodore Roethke Prize, the Crazyhorse Prize; and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Breadloaf. Olsen teaches at Western Michigan University, and edits New Issues Poetry and Prose.