at Length

Two Poems

—Jayme Ringleb


a day alone
and call it Love.

Let it mean
All things are equal.
Let it mean

you have eaten,
you are Filled
by an assortment

of quick-sale meats.
Use the word

For yourself,
use the word Collected.

Let it mean
All things revolve around
a wet, living stone

Call it
Heart. Let it mean
the Earth

moves with you,
loop after loop.
Never mind

what you are
known for or
last night’s dinner

of cheese bread.
What is sadness?
Think, Sadness

was a friend
across the table.

Never mind

the man
she named for you
over dinner on Friday.

What was his name?
Never mind

Anthony. Anthony
is blond
and blue-eyed

and a waiter
and, it’s said,
quite funny.

Think, Anthony is not
a day alone though,
not Love.

Let this
break your heart,
but don’t say

Break your heart
here or anywhere.
Nobody wants to see it

wild and out.
In this poem,
ask What heart?

Let it be
the wet, living stone.
Revolve around it

this way:
Alone and Alive.

you are equal to
anything equal to
the Earth.

Say Little heart,
for all your murmuring,
I imagine

you’re textured like
a persimmon
Say Little heart,

if you are
at all
like a persimmon,

I’ll seal you
in a jar
of limewater

to rid you
of your unbearable flavor.

Say Little heart,

which of your ventricles
is your favorite,
your hardest worker?

Drop your little heart
in a mason jar
and set it aside for the day.

You will be
truly in Love then,
won’t you?

You will be
This poem won’t mind

what you’re known for
or what you’ve brought
with you.

Nobody will love you
like I do.
Let this poem

fill you. Let it
wash your hair.
It will use

egg whites
and honey.
Maybe you’d like

something different.
Tell this poem
what you want.

The Earth.
Say Little heart,

let me
thumb you through
until all your stones

are turned and
all your meats sold.

Say Little heart,

let there be
a primacy in you.
Let there be

a primacy in you
a poem
can get to.


All things bare but pine and pine-scaling
creeper, having dashed open in February
fists of rolled leaves to a light

so plentiful it’s worthless.
The sun knows to regain a little worth
by disappearance, and you

emerge from your ridiculous apartment
to hike to the gas station down the highway.
You shouldn’t, of course, considering

your recent head cold, considering also you’re
going for a case of beer, and of course
the wind and drizzle tonight will profit you nothing.

You haven’t believed
in good men
in months,

though even the fists of creeper remaking the landscape
seem to you like brothers,
or a race between brothers.

An anniversary:
1997, February,
and across Hartwell, a college student

walked the train tracks on a timber truss
spanning a narrow in the lake.
The story itself is simple—

enough booze,
and no one hears a train:
the student turned back

and was, it seemed, touched on the arm,
a word came to him, and he pulled
apart like a wishbone.

Three days after this, it was still
February, 1997,
you were standing in an alfalfa field,

scanning what you were to shoot:
the neighbor’s emptied Schlitz cans,
a precise row of silver and white

he’d set out on a rotted hay bale.
He leaned his rifle, forestock perched in weeds,
against the ledge of a shallow ditch,

and you stood up, because
you were small, into the rifle
as he leaned against your back a bit.

He pressed your shoulder into the rifle,
and you pointed it at a can and pulled.
Good, he kept saying,

and he set his shoulder into yours,
he took your hands to the trigger
and had you pull again, with him,

rifle sound crackling against blank trees
and returning to you.
Good, he said, and he fired again,

and you took each dig of the rifle
into the giving shoulder—and because
you wanted to believe this was good,

you kept from yelling against this man
who wanted to gather you, to remake you
into what may have been worth a man.

Onto the highway, the gas station lets fall
narrow strafings of fluorescent light
by which small cars are touched as they clip past,

and you might ask that you receive a part
in the dialogue between
light and bodies passing through it,

between the voice that begins
in the throat and the voice
a mouth abandons.

The rain is light and good, and the wind tonight
is bitter. Even if you feel it come
gently against you, as if,

in this space, the wind could come close
to holding you, you’ll say
the wind itself is bitter.

Jayme Ringleb is a recipient of scholarships to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat, and some of his poems appear recently or are forthcoming in jubilat, Gulf Coast, The Journal, The Adroit Journal, and Sixth Finch.