A Poet Remembers a Poet Remembering Racine

It is a feat to be born,
to wake up and be able to count
the fly corpses trapped behind glass panes,
what memories remain.

An old man picks up a rock
that struck him in the head,
was thrown by a best friend,
becomes all sentimental -

he’s not holding a rock, but a cigarette.
He’s at a typewriter. The world
a game of marbles, running
through Island Park, an arcade,

wrack the memories, the bombed-out
house of a mother now emigrated.
Water keeps flowing – bakeries,
groceries, the Armenian sister city

he no longer wakes up to. But in Oregon,
trees are covered with frost.
A fallen trunk covers its trail,
roots heaved into winter.

Leaves chill to the matter,
while footsteps divert around.
Accumulation. Like ashes, first drafts.
No one really trucks with ink ribbons

anymore. The smoke in the room
was never the smoke in the air.
Inland smokestacks – what industry
was, was, now only imprinted,

creosote imposed onto bricks.
The rest is turnover, wind over Michigan,
bones of a once-hooked bass
circulating up from the depths.

Jon Backmann