Carl Boon




In the era of ISIS I decide
to study the magpies landing 
on the hill, black and white
and nearly green on the grass.

I imagine their bones,
their rituals for the dying
more compelling than ours.

In flight—maybe hesitant
and low—they focus only
to avoid disaster, the driver
who might swerve, the boy

on his unruly skateboard,
the wasp in the fig tree. 
I see the news, 34 bodies

blown away, ceiling tiles awry
in the Brussels airport. 
But still the magpies know
how to land, and the land,

and seek dead angels,
the spring’s first berries,
a girl in a window weeping.




I owe much to the room where we
made love and listened 
in the intervals to trains. 

I ironed your hair to the pillow,
watched your eyes

as you wondered what this
was, this reckoning of skin
and instants, this train

going to Pittsburgh and this
to Montreal. I didn't know

your past, though it came
in fantasies while I waited,
as all boys wait to be 

touched. Just perfectly,
just right, as songs are said

to do. If I scampered away
for ice cream and macaroni salad,
I’m sorry, for always there's

a pause, an indirection,
a place where the poem breaks

and becomes instead 
what really happened. You 
in your purple t-shirt 

knew this perfectly, and leapt
against me as the lightning

broke the sky into a thousand
pieces, each one seen
by pairs of lovers elsewhere. 




MAGPIES AND THE ISIS ERA came into focus not long after the terrorist attack at the Brussels airport. I was sitting on my balcony one evening watching the magpies land on the hillside. A compositional method that works for me sometimes (and probably for most creative writers) is the side-by-side placement of disparate events or ideas; for example, how to make sense of terror by watching birds, these creatures who have no concept of anything except their needs and comfort. The guiding question for me was: what do the birds know?

LOVE-MAKING recalls the details of a youthful sexual encounter and deconstructs the self-centered exuberance that accompanies such early experiences. It tries to break through the fantasy-screen to "what really happened," which is undoubtedly less exciting that what we remember. It also attempts to contextualize—as young lovers see themselves as somehow unique in that experience. I suppose Wordsworth’s "Tintern Abbey" lingers somewhere on the edges here—his idea that youth can’t fully enjoy joy without time and reflection. Now that decades have passed, what happened in that room is both more real and less real.