Anne M Carson

Poem without Huckleberry in it

The first thing I recognise in America is a wide ribbon
               of pewter river snaking across the patchwork-quilted
squares of farmer-tilled land below. It has to be the

               Mississippi, I think – my first glimpse of a US icon.
33,000 feet above and the river is so broad, takes up
               so much space in the small oval eye of the plane

window, it has to be kilometres across. Sinuous,
               undulant, a cascading twine of dull silver-hued
radiance thrown across the land like a thick thread

               of twisted metal fabric appliqued on cloth. Someone
has thrown the spool from somewhere up north –
               Canada maybe or Minnesota – and the ribbon has

unraveled all the way down the length of the country,
               weaving through the middle states, coming
finally to the Gulf of Mexico where the reel runs out.

An Assay on intimacy
A telephone survey to track flu infection patterns. What did I do yesterday, who did I speak with, touch, allow within arm’s reach? Rewriting my day through number and length of contacts, touch, proximity. How long did it take you to drive from Beacon Lighting to the hospital; were you alone? He asked, just the right degree of formality, leaving familiarity to me. The minutiae I wouldn’t bother sharing with anyone spilled out – 20 minutes from gym to café. I touched 2 people there, 6 came within arm’s reach … a shame my day wasn’t more interesting. Better than most, he soothed, like a friend trying to put things in perspective. It would be different, I said, if you asked how much of my poem I got written. We should ask everybody that, he agreed, enthusiastic. I knew he was just asking required questions but it mimicked intimacy. I know that 7 11! he exclaimed when I described where I’d stopped for breath mints before tango, seeming pleased that we had it in common. Did you touch the man who opened the door for you, he asked like a friend wanting every detail. He did it because I was all dolled up for tango, I confided, adding unnecessary detail – the hair, the heels. His probing made me want to open up, give more detail than asked, a funny combination of hairdresser/counsellor/secular father confessor. It helped me understand reality show contestants. And of the 8 people at tango how many of those did you touch? The 4 I danced with but I didn’t exchange body fluids with any of them! I couldn’t help myself – surely we were friends by now. I almost confessed about the man I’d been fantasising about for weeks, how close he held me, how good his arm felt around my waist, but I held myself back, practicing a last decorum. And how long did it take you to drive home? And did you have anyone with you?

Anne M Carson’s poetry has been published internationally and widely in Australia. Her collection, Removing the Kimono, was published in 2013. Most recently she was shortlisted for the 2015 Ron Pretty Poetry Prize and commended in the Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Prize. Currently she is looking for a publisher for Massaging Himmler: A poetic biography of Dr Felix Kersten.
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