No casinos for the dead. No golf tournaments, no F-150s, no fitness classes, no weight loss scams, no virus protection, no backup, no clog dancing, no hiking trails, no flag raisings, no FBI, no beach chairs, no insurance, no alarms clocks, no bad hair, no decrease in benefits, no operators standing by. No captain’s hand wearing the wheel smooth. No horses climbing from below the waterfall with legs unbroken. No slipping into Old English. No vocabulary of snow falling one or two flakes at a time. No falling at all. No apartments, no bewilderment, no excuse after excuse, no deep-set humanity. No more would you like another drink? No more phones masquerading as guides. No shuffleboard. No tennis. No banners flapping above crowds. No red soil. No black soil. No loam. No sister, no brother, no mother, no father. No I’m not a kid anymore. No whining about food. No sunscreen. No concern about order. No copyright infringement. No cologne. No honey. No minions, no mezzanine, no narthex. No accidents. No overdose. No murder. No surveillance team. No embracing. No you without you. How do we know the dead aren’t always in motion.
Here, the canon changes. Camp as deterrent, as garnish on the landscape. Folklore suggests travesty and healthy livers. The canon is a goad to aggression, a snare set for the lost. Nothing risks disdain like swamp ice. Salvador Dalí steps in to produce frog salad and grits. Strange to be here: a beholder among the windchills. Stranger still the lack of hawks and crows. Inside the bag, the canon starts breathing again, wetting its lips with boot polish and simple syrup, struggles into a dress made of caraway seeds. Disclosure of innocence is a serious matter: vegetable mess set aside without a sense of contour, a hazy realm pointing to academic betrayal. The body will store the canon like a false horizon. A double sense of emergency dominates. Mother Nature starts to spit but stops short, the cult of uncooked birds sketching her in mid-fantasy. The hunting camp, when finished, drops a feathery ladder down to Manitou Island. Another effect: canon as anchor, canon as shelter. Granulated sugar for the ants. Tortillas for the actors. Monikers for the disenfranchised pop groups. The canon looks over its shoulder: Mae West on the cross, Humphrey Bogart dodging infant rattlesnakes.
Dear Joni Mitchell: several whiskers develop power over subjective comfort while we, as a color, express lace and wax. Your sound is all wanderlust and ascension. We study pulses nervous as false seasons, joke about the rain or the locals, but you most of all know our ragged orbit precludes true humor: we are overseers denied both regret and illusion. We are lovers of trembling strings and diamond terrain—vehicles rooted in marbled abstractions. Your momentum is like a fever bridging damage and charity. Society is actually our prisoner, suspended from an overloaded paradise of thieves in bronze. Give your whine a title as it scrambles above the sand. We drift like a farmhouse spun from cellophane, diving down the roads to feel the slow kick of alignment. Imagine frozen threads of energy shooting along the docks. Imagine travel as truce. But of course you already have. One of your masterpieces, Hejira, opens like a church for those listening deep and alone. Could be us, our truce with travel cooling, eyes fixed on the icy junction of relay and range. We are the artist alone at their own presentation: one foot in a well, on hand on a journal. Sometimes you sound like a bird of prayer.
In an F. Daniel Rzicznek poem it is usually raining and if it is raining there is likely fog and the fog behaves like an animal that F. Daniel Rzicznek describes for you without getting too specific about what kind of animal exactly because the fog is either approaching you or inching lengthwise across your view, the view that probably includes conifers, islands, rafting flocks of ducks or sometimes geese and quite suddenly, without switching sentences, F. Daniel Rzicznek places a mosquito whining outside the cave of your ear and he raises your left hand to make a swiping grab for it and you catch it in your closed fist and then slap it open against your leg, the mosquito now a crooked, punished version of itself, bent like a coat hanger and twitching a little as the rain increases as if on cue and F. Daniel Rzicznek is now moving your head around, drawing the forest and stones through your eyes, mentioning that some of the stones resemble human faces while others look like everyday objects, refrigerators and televisions, which you find odd, but you hold on because F. Daniel Rzicznek seems to know what he’s doing even though he has insisted he doesn’t and the rain falls and falls forever.
F. Daniel Rzicznek is the author of three poetry collections, Settlers (forthcoming from Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press), Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press), as well as four chapbooks, most recently Live Feeds (Epiphany Editions). He is coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press). His recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in West Branch, Willow Springs, Colorado Review, 32 Poems, TYPO, Terrain, The Collagist and elsewhere. Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.