Joshua Ackerman

Of Sky and Earth # 21 by Stephen Linsteadt


It doesn’t take that many handfuls of harm
for me to realize just how much I loathe
the reaction-driven, confidence-pitted human
who constantly stalks me; I find him staring
back at me in the glare of a pair of sunglasses
and in the dustily reflective glass of storefront
exteriors, and I catch myself despising him
a little bit more with each glare, each glance.

Sometimes I dream not of handfuls of harm
but of handfuls of yarn — yarn I could weave
into tapestries that would tell tales and
hats and gloves and scarves that would
only scream of divine warmth and say
absolutely nothing else. Sometimes I wish
my mind could grip the singular scream
of divine warmth and say nothing else
leaving the tales of the tapestries behind.

Yet I carry both the handfuls of harm and
the handfuls of yarn and I find the unbearded man
who stalks me in sunglasses and storefronts
simultaneously and paradoxically entangled
in the yarn and slicing through every inch
of it with handfuls of harm and yet it only
continues to constrict me as if I am a snake
wearing a scaly skin that’s far too tight
as I salivate to slip out of that skin to see
the unbearded man’s newly grown stubble.

The Troubled Person

The troubled person has awoken
to find that he has skillfully crafted
a space of reckoning but failed to do
said reckoning in that space.

Instead, his mind has affixed itself to the
hay-fever lodged in his throat and
the sounds of his unknown neighbor:
intermittent toilet filling, flushing
intermittent clicking from an oven as it heats
feet that drag against a worn wooden floor
the bellow of a midcentury radiator.

The troubled person remains a witness
to the homeostatic buzz of the neighbor
having designed his routine around the gamble
of not knowing if today’s water will be warm.

The melding of the obvious and the necessary
is the neighbor’s life, governed by the ordinary:
white majolica bowls, corresponding spoons
dust-collecting wine bottles, champagne flutes
unused bars of fresh linen-scented soap.
Nothing wild, nothing new — time suspended
between stucco, plastics, unopened books.

The troubled person throws rusted darts
into an alabaster-primed sheetrock wall
bewildered by the benign, mindlessly daubing
his attention around a shoebox of a room.

The sheetrock is just as wounded as
the troubled person, whose needs
remain indecipherable to his own self.
The same, adjacent alabaster walls contain
a world free of boundaries, a neighbor
devoid of dust and replenished by small scenes:
onions creating steam, an armoire that creeks.

The unmediated dialogue: a troubled person
and an unfettered neighbor. One stuck
inside of a rioting mind, the other inhibitionless,
alive amongst the sands of an hourglass.

Both crafting their own cathedral: singularly
spellbound by the passage of the same days.
One tracking a waxing moon, another
a bystander of his own body. Both amongst
gum-spotted sidewalks and jacaranda trees.
The fault lines of two who breathe the same air
and have come to trust the other with their silence.

Table of Contents