Don Gilliland


Air conditioning.

I am sorry. My story about the wrong number
was error, was pumpkin-time fairy tale,
was etymology of bug. In truth I rarely
left the first floor flat and I always ate

heavy stews of carrot and parsnip at midnight.
The countryside was low and marshy,
like a canal zone, and tides mattered a lot
in the newspaper. I slid and sleeted,

and caressed water stains on the drywall.
I never called anyone but I considered
it at three every afternoon, the drenching
hour, my rice time. The carpet smelled stale

and its dark spots worried me. There was a trick
to getting the stew's buddha thickness and deep
color right. Novel strains of viruses flourished
among a healthy mosquito population. Indoors

was hypothermia and long sleeves; outdoors
was heat stroke, grass tuft, broken glass, palmetto,
air paste. In truth it was South Carolina.
There was a zip code but I've forgotten it.

I called my mother once at three a.m.,
the birdsong time, and she answered
on the first ring. I didn't drown any water
buffalo and I left the daddy longlegs alone.

I had a phone and good earwax hygiene.
The back door bucket water was the breeding
ground. I irrigated imaginary fens.
Sticky little frogs bleated on the windows.


Land reform.

The talk of farms, of plain rusticity,
of startle and tine--always it biased
the fleshy wheels. The bald and neuter
number six bounced in, sat down,
and wanted vodka. See an ankle artery

fill, besot itself, darken, slightly lift, then
drain unpretentiously and lower, then
repeat and repeat, always less often than
my wristwatch clicks. I've found a strange
hair in my bed, too long and white for anyone
who's been there. One in three fields

is always fallow. We'll chart blue boulevards
of veins on smooth foot-tops and trace
forked redness in those eyes opened wider
than usual. Is this Eritrea? Chechnya?
Why can't there be six of everything?
Circles and spheres and plain straight lines.


My case of life at noon.

I walked, still heated in inner conversa-
tion, and looped white eccentric circles about
the topic of technology, its status
as acolyte, follower, a white flower
of talent, and its reputation, perhaps
not yet tarnished, as a mechanical art,
an applied science, a topic on which I

was fit to think, as I'd been adroit as off-
bearer for the Address-o-Graph and performed
well at foosball with my relentless change-up.
Out in a distant country, sire el-Shaddai
heard his people's cries. He came to baste the doves'
feathers with a gold-glaucous sheen, which gave their
flight more radiance, and to cause snow to fall once

again, enshrouding the Dark Mountain, foiling
the judge's petty project to fell his oaks
and to incinerate his rivals alive
in their towers. My studied conversation,
though democratic, really was more a tilt,
a bout of psychomachia, than conver-
sation; really the topic was catalyst

and miasma; and the hot sun and rattle
of my prayer beads really signified and bloomed
a stable in-gathering, even despite
my blasted ignorance of my ignorance
of the Ionic Greek chalked on the sidewalk.
Out there, too, on the plains, a thoroughbred sensed
a snake, then bolted and dragged Mara for half

a minute. She needed stitches and was bruised
badly. Although no bones were broken, she still
was right bitter about her years' hues and fumes,
their wide concentric circles of bitter fate.
And I tried to register these elsewhere-bits,
tried to estimate the nothings, the chasms
of narratives, the strange-somethings I had not

before noticed, tried to see an analogue
or parallel to conservation, to birth
control, protection from the full wide spectrum,
from what, in other peoples' circumstances,
might be desired, a protection unlike swerve
reflexes which preserve us from collision,
and unlike the orthodox snowmobile con-

versation and the statute on foolishness.
But also out there, in the shade, Debussy
fidgeted and played chromatic flute fragments,
and waited for the goat's afternoon to start
in sun-sopped glade, and saw how the apex birds
up so high were black, and decided color
wouldn't travel well, in either space or time.



on Air conditioning.

In truth, the story is this: I have fond memories of air-conditioned pre-adolescent summers in Charleston, although once I nearly got heat stroke when mowing my aunt's lawn.

on My case of life at noon.

A Japanese pianist and I were the most formidable foosball team of my freshman college dormitory. At first my secret weapon was my very very slow shot from up close. It would always trickle in, to the confusion and frustration of my opponents. Eventually I also began to slap it, fast and loud. I never knew if my shot was going to be the slow one or the fast one. That lack of control seemed to work to my benefit. My friend the pianist had really good hands and reflexes. Perfect pitch, too, by the way. He's not in the poem, as far as I know.

on Land reform.

I have some white wool socks which I bought many years at Keflavik International Airport in Iceland. I never wear them, though, because they're too prickly.