The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Troy Jollimore

Silence and Residue of Waters



To take seriously the proposition that disappearance is the normal order of things.


Tom and I decided to go to the movies. Tom had a rough time around people because of how his face worked. When he was sad his face registered joy. When he liked someone his face registered fear. But he liked watching movies, where he could see but not be seen. But when we got to what we thought was the right address we found that the movie theater had been replaced by a baseball stadium which had in turn been replaced by a labyrinthine complex of self-storage rental units. And the city itself, the beautiful city that used to surround the movie theater, had been replaced by a military research facility which had in turn been replaced by desert. It was too late to go home, and fortunately there were a few other people there as confused as we were, who let us join their camp and shared their water with us while we considered what to do next.


Silence and residue of waters, radio waves, ungrounded ground.
At the end of the ceremony nothing had been bought, but so much, so much had been sold.


To wake up in the middle of a dream without the dream
ending, to wonder how this could be unless it were someone
else’s dream, or not a dream at all, but rather
a pageant of sorts, a gratuitous gift. Love is theater,
she said, and you thought this was nothing, just a standard
part of the seduction, but later, in the room you borrowed
in which to make love to her, you felt, dimly,
the presence of an audience, and then you noticed
that the actor assigned to play her part
had been switched with another. Fortunately,
the understudy was also very beautiful.


And then the corporation announced that it was about to initiate a new program called Amazon Preemptive Delivery, in which as soon as you mentioned or even thought about a product a drone would be dispatched to deliver it to you, and the charges automatically deducted from your account. Average delivery time would be two and a half minutes, meaning that your bright new purchase would often have arrived before you were even aware that you wanted it.


The man who made the announcement was wearing an Italian
suit that fit his body the way a field of wildflowers
fits a hillside meadow and would respond to objections
from various members of the assembly
by sighing and saying to the ceiling “There are always,
in every era, those whose primary desire
is to impede the path of progress.”


A thing on a stage is perceived by so many eyes at once
it can practically disappear beneath the weight of all that seeing.


Which explains, perhaps, the dream of being an actor.


No fact of the matter, in our view, as to whether
an attraction existed that brought these two figures into orbit
around each other or some bored divinity
had decided to manipulate the game, the flow
of things, merely self-entertaining with the nearest-
to-hand playthings he could manage to find,
which happened, on this occasion, to be human.
At any rate, their habit was to meet at noon
in the lobby of the Prudential Building. And what
is a building, after all, but a larger, more durable
set of clothes that many people can wear
all at once? And what is a smile, but a way
of speaking without speaking? And what is lovemaking
but a way of saying to one’s surroundings,
I, too, belong among the items that have been placed here?


Silence and residue of waters, radio waves, ungrounded ground.
At the end of the ceremony nothing had changed hands, but our hands had been somehow changed.
It was our own hands themselves that confronted us now, incomprehensible, strange.




TROY JOLLIMORE's most recent collection of poetry, Syllabus of Errors, was chosen by the New York Times as one of the best poetry books of 2015. His previous poetry books are At Lake Scugog (2011) and Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry for 2006. He teaches philosophy at California State University, Chico, and is the author of two philosophical works, Love’s Vision and On Loyalty. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, the Stanford Humanities Center, and the Guggenheim Foundation.



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