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Recognition Failure Horror

by John Kinsella

Years you’ve been walking around this place.
Something compels you outside to walk again:
grating crow-calls, incessant twitch of wagtails,
a breeze that can’t open anything cool
in this harsh summer morning. There
is no moisture to be sucked out of anything,
but this should also be familiar. Outside,
walking trails worn as if hundreds of sheep
made daily use of them, but none do, only
you, small animal life and insects crossing
erratically, or in set-patterns that don’t declare
themselves to you, or if they have in the past,
no longer do so. A branch of jam tree snapped
under the weight of mistletoe has dried to crumbling,
and you don’t remember when it fell,
though you recall you’re always vigilant.
Something like sugar glass crunches
beneath your boots. Oat stubble spikes
then gives way. Repetition
should have flattened the last spikes
months ago. There’s no point of connection.
It’s as if the constant, persistent, obsessive
mapping and naming and blood-letting of self
into the same place—your place—
was a ruse, a ghosting, a skin-deep
placation of the need for location.
You’ve forgotten every sensation,
but the names of what you see
pop up like crib cards.


John Kinsella’s new volume of poetry is Divine Comedy: Journeys Through a Regional Geography (W. W. Norton, 2008). His Disclosed Poetics: Beyond Landscape and Lyricism was published in 2007 (Manchester University Press/Palgrave). (11/2008)

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