A quick tap on the barometer and in about three seconds its pointer will turn to prevailing atmospheric conditions, low or high pressure, the former paradoxically implying the approach of a storm. Low. But the view out the window couldn’t be calmer. A man walking along with his dog, white with irregular patches of rust, a completely likable, pattable animal that suddenly freezes, left front paw lifted and tucked, muzzle aimed at the game bird in hiding. Not shouldering a rifle, with no visible interest in the hunt, the man continues along, his dog ambling after, the detected bird keeping to its bolthole. A complex piano piece on the radio abruptly shifts into a quiet chorale-like passage with no counterpoint at all, just vertical and modal harmony. Gooseflesh, and it feels as though I’ve just remembered something long gone and forgotten, something ancient, events unfolding centuries before I was born. I can almost reach it. In orange sunset light, I’m alone, walking, woolgathering, with deserted plains and hills stretching out ahead. Jolted when I approach a sign with an eastward arrow saying THRACE, ONE THOUSAND MILES. Something like that. The chorale passage ends, I’m catapulted back into the present, restored to anxieties linked to absurd chores required by daily survival. Sturm und Drang: that’s an overstatement, and yet here it comes, a pointed commentary on this moment, black clouds, winds, flailing branches, two pheasants exploding into the first downward scattershot raindrops. Sing, goddess. Lightheaded, I’m ready to be torn apart.
Alfred Corn’s forthcoming book, Unions, from which this prose poem is taken, will be published by Barrow Street Press.