DeWitt Clinton – Anybody Home?



DeWitt Clinton taught English, Creative Writing, and World of Ideas courses for over 30 years at the University of Wisconsin—Whitewater. His earlier collections of poetry include The Conquistador Dog Texts, The Coyot. Inca Texts, (New Rivers Press), At the End of the War (Kelsay Books, 2018), By A Lake Near A Moon:  Fishing with the Chinese Masters (Is A Rose Press, 2020), and Hello There (Word Tech Communications, 2021).   He lives in the Village of Shorewood, just across the street from Milwaukee.

Anybody Home?

Opening the door, I wonder if you’re still here,
Then I wonder, just where is there, as I can’t
Find where you’ve just up and left, though
I wasn’t invited, though you’ve asked me to go
Along with your scheme years ago, and I didn’t
As I didn’t know what might be ahead, as in what
Might happen if I stayed, but maybe someday,
Not just what appears to be now, someday sometime
I’ll open our door, walk in and wonder what in
The world has changed, but then, it’s such pain
That you’ve lived through, it seems to make sense
That you’ve gone, and I really don’t mind that I’ve
Not gone along for the lonely ride into a space
That no one, no one now knows where you are,
But you’re someplace, right, someplace that I
Have no possibility of ever visiting, as you just
Have left what was here, though what was here
Was such pain and misery, so it seems perfectly
Clear why you’re out there, even if I don’t know
Where your there is, but maybe that’s not so
Important now, even though, for all these years,
Everything seemed so important, so I’ll see what’s
Next, okay, and perhaps it’s just taking a long walk,
But to where seems such a mystery, after all, we
Took these walks ending up in Florence or Ixtapa,
And no one ever would think, that’s not where we
Are now, even though I sense you might still be near.

Just Not Yet

Tonight, like so many nights, we spoke again about
Possibly letting go, and moving on through the universe,
But we both know we don’t know anything about
These plans, which are really not plans, as everyone
Might already know, but the only thing we may know
Is that someday, something like this will happen, of
Course, but not soon, as that would surprise both of
Us, but sometime soon, though now we’re just trying
To make it back and forth to little rooms without further
Bugaboos, but little by little, we can both tell something
Is changing, and that something is something we want
To pay attention to, but we don’t want to pay attention
To it, as we’re more interested in lunch plans and an
Afternoon of old movies which we never would have
Imagined long ago, but now they provide some kind of
Delight, though delight is not something what the other
Might express when and if something happens but not
Yet, of course, we know that, but still, it’s something
That starts to linger with both of us, but for now, nothing
Is happening that we want to be alarmed about, just not

Not Generalizable, But That Doesn’t Matter, Does It?

Today we’ve learned we have all gained half a pound in every
Ten days*, but it’s a limited study, and we’re still about the same,
But the good news is that all those pounds are not generalizable
And that’s what’s so fascinating, not the pounds, not the carry-outs,
Not the countless wine bottles, not the endless pizza boxes but
Notably, none of this is generalizable, and sure, some of you out
There are more familiar with what can and cannot be generalized,
But generalizable, really, has it really come down to this, and perhaps
That’s not so bad, but let’s hope everything else in the world is not
Generalizable either, for who could handle that kind of world data
Information where even though the study is limited, but still quite
Valuable, it’s not, that’s right, generalizable, so our neighbors, of
Course, may have actually gained more than .6 of a pound every
10 days, but we’re relieved we certainly did not, even though we’re
Still in hibernation, still not fully immune, still confined to a few
Rooms which continually become smaller and smaller, but thankfully
Some dear friends reminded us we’re going to make it, and that
More than anything is probably the best generalizable factor, but
Of course, we know that’s not true, not at all, as so many social
Diseases afflicted by half the population may never make it unless
Someone starts unloading quarrelsome behaviors that in the end
Make just staying alive a few more days something of a miracle, yes?

*The New York Times 3/23/2021 A8 “How Much Did We Gain,”
Parag. 11/line 3

A Few Chickadees Alight in the Dying Lilacs

Who really knows about these things as so many
Are so deeply absorbed by what they are calling
Some bad, but it’s probably more the
Sense of just being discombobulated, out of whack,
Adrift, a pensive look into space that never changes,
And then, along come a few chickadees, flitting
Branch to branch, and then like we knew, landing
So far away we’ll never see the miracle of wing,
Color, the tiny tweeting of such a delicate sight,
But then, that’s what we’re trying to get through,
Right, the constant grey storm clouds bringing
More, and everyone in the neighborhood is so
Positive about this, saying such niceties as we
Really needed that, or it’s good for the ground
Water, or next year the cherries will blossom
Like nothing ever, but if it rains too hard and too
Fast, most of us without those new fangled
Roof gutters will be down in the basement
Brooming all those streams of water toward
The sewer drain, though more streams start
Anew right where the chimney starts next
To the heater, but then, the rain or whatever
It is that may come down upon us let’s up
A bit, and then we’ll go upstairs for something
That might refresh and take the weight off
Of all that we are wondering about here,
Though just down the road, nothing is going
On like it’s going on here, nope, nothing and
That’s just about what it’s like whether it’s
Bad bugs killing millions of us off like a plague,
Or too much snow or too much rain, or a
Dizzying hail storm that we’ll save for our
Grandkids, unless, of course, they’ve up and left.

On Reading Luminous Poems in an Escape, While Outside, Corona
Drops People Off at the Curb, Or at the Nearby Hospital, Or Morgue

If it helps, the time is early afternoon, sheltered in a covered
Parking lot waiting for someone to draw a blood sample
Of someone else. The wind outside makes everything
Move in a way that something natural is about to happen.
Most but not all are masked. The storm is coming soon.
Everything will be soaked. We have two more weeks,
Or months, or more of lockdown. The virus may never
Leave. One by one, it will find us, on every continent.
In a few minutes we will make lunch, find a movie set
In deep space, where we cannot go or even visit but we
Decide to go anyway. Each time when we go out, if we
Go out again, we will measure two weeks before either
Or both of us falls down and dies. If we don’t fall down,
We think we can outlive what’s out there but a dear friend
Tells us just wait, try to pretend what could never end,
And that’s just what we’re going to do, right after lunch.

© DeWitt Clinton