I was someone else then, rarely able
to breathe out and disappear. A day
was a job one got up to do. Arranging
tools. Counting picas, and my insane game
of bigger letters meaning fewer words.
Did the pencil wear down first, or the knuckle’s skin?
L’s are for shit, I told the intern. Get us
more W’s or we’ll be here all day.
The decade took forever to pass—
and me as the drag in its drape.
Cutlines. Five lines, then four
under the crash photo
since that’s all
Nearing midnight, I’d been known to drift
among old men fishing the Seine.
Sipping coffee at George Sand’s, hearing notes
bursting right then into existence.
Water clicking against a dock. And the light
taking an eternity to cross the road
to the newsstand. Night’s
shift. In France, I’d died believing in the smallest moments
of perfection…as I was dying here again
in the same damn way
in this other day.
Nance Van Winckel’s fourth collection of poetry is Beside Ourselves (Miami University Press, 2003). A new collection of poems is forthcoming from University of Washington Press. She has received two NEA Fellowships and has recent poems in APR, Ploughshares, New Letters, and The Massachusetts Review. She has also published three books of short fiction, most recently Curtain Creek Farm (Persea Books, 2000), and is the recipient of a 2005 Christopher Isherwood Fiction Fellowship and the Patterson Fiction Award. New short stories appear in The Georgia Review and Agni. She teaches in the MFA programs at Eastern Washington University and Vermont College.