Jordan Smith – Another Abandoned Novel

Jordan LE P&W 5 Nov-Dec 2023

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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Five Nov-Dec 2023.

Another Abandoned Novel, poems by Jordan Smith.

Another Abandoned Novel

When your letters to your heroine were returned,
Addressed post restante
To somewhere she had not foreseen
You would even think to follow her,
You had already abandoned your novel,
As you had already forsaken the diminished chord
Tenuous, barely resolved,
Over which the guitarist lingered, singing her name.
A cliché, yes, especially in that kind of bar,
Which might or might not explain the scene she caused,
There and in your deleted penultimate chapter
Written in a style she would have thought beneath both of you,
Even in a spat between lovers who had long ago
Abandoned the notion of any difference
Between propriety and property.
Pleased that, as the narrative receded
Like her figure into the evening,
She left only in the ash tray,
A train ticket, one of a pair, torn so the destination was unreadable,
And her contempt that you had so quickly
Abandoned, and so easily,
The most you had to offer her desire:
Words chosen only for effect,
Words that would not ever go together well.

An Episode

I don’t have a condition, I have episodes,
She told the querulous nurse at the desk
In that hospital outside Geneva
(The same one where Zelda Fitzgerald
Took the rest cure that almost killed her),

High above the lake, where all that light
Whetting the edges of the whitecaps,
Was more beautiful, she thought
Than she or anyone had any right to expect

Who expected only one end or another with equal lack
Of equanimity, adding

How she refused to join her friends at the Museum of Calvinism
Since she knew already which of the two doors
Was predestined to welcome her,

And, having no interest in a futile repentance,

She accepted F’s invitation to join him on his racing sloop,
A legacy from an uncle who had always disliked him–
Thirty-nine feet of upkeep,
And I can barely afford my usual sins,

Although she does have the most entrancing lines–

For a cruise to Yvoire,
The medieval town on the French side,
Thinking to take in its Jardin des Cinq Sens,
Along with the champagne he opened as they left the harbor,

Just before he proved as poor a sailor
As he was a fast drinker,
Cutting through a racing fleet, jibing
With no warning, and then,

As they approached the town,
And a squall set the boat
Almost on her side, then raked her against the wharf,
Giving his head a little shake of triumph,
Ludicrous, and whether

It was the suddenly cold wind
Kicking up the spray or F’s jaunty
Indifference to the splintered woodwork,

Or the dwindling
Perspective of the street rising between the tiny stone houses,
As he tried to lead her
Towards where, somewhere, the garden waited,
Each groomed bed an homage to one sense’s
Subtly different tracing of pain,

She had not stopped shivering since,
Shivering and pacing the deck of the tourist steamer
That returned her
To shiver and pace the tiny room of her hotel,

Until her friends hired the car and gave the driver the address,

And here I am, she said, and here is what I came for,
Dropping the news photo
Of the wrecked boat on the doctor’s heavy
And ornate desk.

I have a craft,
As fine as this, he said, only I
Have learned to be more careful.

Internet Radio

It was some kind of Breton/North African/Pashtun groove
He clicked on accidentally (if accident
Is even a concept these days)

Over that John Cale drone he remembered
Holding all the A-heads together, barely,
When the film behind the band snagged in the projector,

A corona, white light at the center and the brown-to-ash iris
Flaring, like a consciousness

That had had just about enough of itself,

So, waiting in his usual café
For his son’s rehearsal to finish in the old church on Congress Street,
Looking out on the terrace of the once-grand hotel

Where even so deep in winter couples sat
Warmed by the spirit-blue torches between the tables,

He slid the headphones back into place,
As the bendir and oud continued their conversation
Like two friends at a party
He didn’t have the nerve to interrupt with his goodbyes,

And remembered the drive up 87 from the city
Snow deepening at the Saugerties exit and then shivering in the lot
Of the rest-stop before Hudson, as he shrugged
Into the down jacket he’d grabbed from the corner of the loft

And thought he’d never wear against a cold he never felt,

Until the flute player’s microtonal flurry
Underscored each small difference
Between the old dispensation and the new.

© Jordan Smith

Jordan Smith is the author of eight full-length books of poems, most recently Little Black Train, winner of the Three Mile Harbor Press Prize and Clare’s Empire, a fantasia on the life and work of John Clare from The Hydroelectric Press, as well as several chapbooks, including Cold Night, Long Dog from Ambidextrous Bloodhound Press. The recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim and Ingram Merrill foundations, he is the Edward Everett Hale Jr., Professor of English at Union College.

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