The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Gerald Fleming

Refugee

 

Jump into the river at 12:46. I’ll meet you at 1. If I’ve got the tide tables right the current will get you here just then. Stay close to shore. Let the river take you. Keep your head down and don’t swim: to swim is to splash. Count to sixty, do that thirteen times then take the headlamp & flash it once. Just once and I’ll jump in.

            We can reverse this. No, rivers don’t flow upstream, but we’ve been upstream, haven’t we—and what’s it gotten us? Downstream the women are more you, the men more me. You will like the men & the women & I will like the women & men. No one is waiting for us, I know that; I’m not a fool. But when we’ve crossed to the other side, when we haul ourselves out onto a dock (surely there are docks there, so many boats plow their way upstream), when they see our faces, your body & my body will be taken into the arms of their bodies, they will say These are people from the North, and though we are people of the South, to yet others downstream we, too, are people from the North, and would want to be taken in. This is certain. Kindness and sweet fruit await us. The waters have not flowed red there for years. I have been told these things. I promise you: we will emerge from this green river and be made new.

 

 

Gerald Fleming

Blue Iris

 

He considered his life a tiresome journey, a dead secret journey across water from the land of kilos & grams to that of pounds & ounces, then endless travel, odometers, pedometers, every mile logged at day’s end, destination to destination—pedestrian, driver, taker of cabs. It was a vow against passion, this obsession, and it took him far over the years. 42,371 miles, the latest entry in his diary.

            The body, spectacle of accelerating decay, and… feelings? What a word: flaccid with imprecision. As far back as he could remember they came at him, bared their teeth at him: How do you feel about that? What are your feelings on this matter? My god, what cretins!

            We would expect him to be thin and yes he was thin and his eyes sunken, his hair gone gray, his bookshelves nonfiction & philosophy, his home a plastered semicircle built against the sea.

            Then the note: Your poor daughter has died.

            And his note: I had no daughter.

            And the next: Yes you did, and you have another.

            There was a blue iris in the eastern field across the way. He noticed it, looked at it, and looked at the note, and looked at the note again.

 

 

 

GERALD FLEMING's most recent books are One, an experiment in monosyllabic prose poems (Hanging Loose Press, Brooklyn), and The Choreographer (Sixteen Rivers Press, San Francisco). His work appears widely in magazines. Fleming taught for thirty-seven years in San Francisco's public schools. He's currently editing both the limited-edition vitreous magazine One (More) Glass and The Collected Poetry and Prose of Lawrence Fixel.

 

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