He Went After Me In The Wilderness

Photo by Steven Turrill


1. Show Comments
Whenever I am staring off and have
A look around my eyes like so
[And here he makes a stupid face for laughs],
I’ve probs just knocked my elbow
On a mystery. That’s the funny bone.
{Please guide him out of areas
Posing hazard to his health (the road
For instance):}* The scenarios
Too many where I’ve found myself in need
Of gentle nudges to unlock
My feet from solid buckets of cement
I’ve stepped in on my morning walk.
Where did you go, they say, as if they saw
Me climb into a waiting car
And in their faces shut the door and leave.
*[This comment posted days before
He was run over by a car.]
My gaze goes kind of glassy.
I buffer and load and install in place
For a minute that feels like an hour
Until I’m sure I cracked the case.
The mystery is categorically,
Classically, predictably unsound:
Unsolved, because I’m an idiot.
I have a problem telling the ground
From my head when my head’s in the sand.
I’m always like, What if flat-earthers
Are right? Who doesn’t love a big plot twist?
Why didn’t I, when birthers
Were dumping porta-potties of capital-
B Bullshit on the national
Conversation (which wasn’t,
Even then, rational)—
Like a game-ending Gatorade shower
On the losing side at halftime—
Why didn’t I turn the YouTubes off?
So what the golden calf of slime
Assumed the altar, a demon of Mammon—
What did it have to do with me?

2. Tinder
I was entertained by my own anger.
That’s how they fucking got me.
No one noticed the crouched cookfire
Crawl out of bounds, stand up,
And jump into a fig tree.

The haze droops thick and mumbles
At the city with a palsied lip.
The rinsing rain comes less and less.
When it does the land drinks deep
And turns a cheek to be caressed.

Green space grows rare by cubic foot,
Frequency, and so rare by distribution.
But if you count the margins and include
The unexpected (and ignore pollution),

Multiply by a factor of [people hate
To go outdoors in any record heat],
Count brown off-green and see the drought
As possibility, you come to one conclusion.

I’m just kidding. None of that adds up.
Strips on sidewalks basically count for parks
Only some of L.A. gets. Most are wreck,
Strewn with trash and ashy dog shit,
A place for broken furniture,

The requisite fire hydrant, water meter,
Utility pole. The quaint curvature
Of a mailbox long ago disappeared.
A bush sours in its place collecting grime
On waxy leaves that settles out
Like sediment in wine.

3. Contacts
On a Tuesday morning that was cloudless
Enough to be blameless for bad situations
(In accounting common to commuters
Who traffic the myth that traffic is weather),
Near a man and woman with their suitcases
On rollers and their business suits well ironed
As they stooping exited the tent they shared,
I found him on the grass beside the street
Where he had propped himself against a pole.
Behind him and pulled over in the red,
A hybrid idled waking from and going back
To sleep, breathing with its air conditioning.
The windshield crack bore a striking resemblance
To the shape of his head. His shoes

In the intersection, squat like two small
And vulnerable brown ducks lost in the city,
The force had also knocked his socks off.
The driver who had hit him as he crossed
The street was on the phone with the police,
And then, seeming to realize the cost,
Got his lawyer and insurance agent
In that order on a conference call.
I talked to him, the stricken man, who dabbed
His bloody forehead with a jacket sleeve,
And I asked him what he needed, though
I didn’t feel like giving what I had,
Or felt as if to give him next to nothing
Satisfied rejection of a helping hand.

4. Terms of Service
Word incompleteness feels
Appropriately incompatible
Defining loss, embodiment
Of incompleteness real.
Incomplete I word it wrong,
Approaching closer truer
Meaning of communication
Failure, what I want to say.
Loss is loss. Less is more.
Appurtenant to what has gone
Or what was taken from us
Is the rest of living on.

Being the pointing hand
Or the object pointed at,
The word is nothing but a joke,
A pretender, not magic
But the magician—
A trick of distraction
With minor fizzling effect
After tedious banter.
Not to know the reveal
But a reveal is incoming.
Knowing it’s a setup,
Setting yourself up.

The ness of incomplete
Being. Not the income
Of feeling filling your heart,
But debit paying back
What you borrowed
Of happiness, not knowing
It was loaned from the future
To be paid with future
Tragic coin, the despair
Of grief. Is this the balance
Promised in the sermons
And inked on scrolls
And bound in cloth
And passed to children
And the insecure and sick
To calm them in their fear
And put to rest their questions
And ease advance of death
And pain of inexplicable
Misfortune suffered?

Is this the spirit
Of the spiritual,
The overarching law
Of bodies in motion
And emotional life
Called perspective
They call God in church?
Laws of motion
Govern also the laws
Of mind. And sometimes
Not only in metaphor.
But where the figure
Is useful we use it,
Granting us sight
In otherwise darkness.
And the light is of and from
Ourselves, revealing
What reflects us.
It casts a telling shadow.

In the study of this shadow
Is all possible knowledge
If knowledge is possible
At all. Hold it, but prepare
To let go. Be prepared
For what you know
To become what you don’t.
Absent judgment in observation
Of this change to your reality,
And not acting on the fear
Of entering into ignorance
Again, dresses you in robes
Of wisdom. To hold on tight
To your chest the rotten flesh
Of expired knowledge
Occludes you in a darkness
You don’t know is dark,
As in a pitch black night
When you cannot tell
Open eyes from closed.

As in a forest in the mountains,
Pine and oak in the Sierras
In California, when he asked you
For help to secure the food
On ropes in high branches
To keep it safe from bears,
And you walked together
In a way that felt alone,
Because the campsite
And the fire of the campsite,
With its protective circle of light,
Were at your back as you set
To hoisting bags of food over head
And tying knots, so that a bear
Would not surprise the sleepers
Out of night like their fears
Made flesh. Flesh and fur the clays
Our arbitrary and murderous
Most High God might animate
Toward his strange and secret plan.

My flashlight parted darkness
And the darkness sewed back up
Behind the sweep. I shook with fear.
After, in the tent with other boys,
I was not scared. In the morning
I awoke with stabbing stomach pains
And thought I would vomit.
The pain passed with breakfast.
I was more thankful for that one relief
Than I would be for a long time,
Not recognizing the miracle
Of cessation of fear or pain.
And unable now to recall
His face or voice or name,
Only that I followed him
And I safely returned with him,
I marvel at the trust I placed
In men, and how often I was lucky.

Steven Turrill lives in Los Angeles. His first book of poetry, a lot of bad things happening at once, is on sale now. Buy it at steventurrill.com and find him on Instagram @steventurrill.