Get our latest essays, archival selections, reading lists, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
The farms, calm, preternaturally, are witness
to a great put-on. “Out here, on the patio,
things matter,” I tell her father, the two of us
watching the jungle as seen through a dense
envelope of radio-waves, atop a distant tableland—
the estuaries full of rich yellow water.
The phone is for me, it’s my brother, and he says,
“Its like this and like that, and uh.”
We’re never done. Or rather, “Momma, I’m so sorry,
I’m so obnoxious.” Then he and I see it, our one
clean thought. The moon awash in the black
tide of the parking lot. Over the mountain
and across the sea, it’s like that and like this, and uh.
We see us out in that new yet ever unapproachable
neck of the woods, clear and distinct in the dis
pensed order of things, that goes like this:
“The malls, the pits; the fireball, the spatial
shift, the scaffolding enclosing Tuscaloosa.”
And whoever was out there tapping the phone,
heard us and became weak, as that inner logic laid it on
cheap as chips. A darker, more corroborative,
ecology that comes to you like the news of
an event, conquering the long schematic of your day,
to not craze yourself with thinking, but pass
through the distortion field of the up-country’s
occulted gossip. And just by reading
their mail, or telepathically sweeping them
under the rug, we sink beyond a history, deeper still,
into the irreducible minimum of space,
as the speaker’s white face reads a righteous
sentence at the table by the little faltering lamp.
In the grocery store too long too late at night,
I think of that great cloud of witness which has
blown so recently through the football stadium.
When you look out over the nectarines and see
nothing, nothing is there. We pretend to have
a hard time with that. That and not being psychic.
Or how the repose of the water tower’s full belly
hangs like a fog, or that word meanwhile.
Baby, mellow my mind. Make me feel like a pair
of birding binoculars or a moment alone
in the doctor’s office. Another even greater
cloud of witness has blown like a lonesome
whistle on a railroad track. Can’t it just concede
to me as a perfectly understandable thing?
Before it all comes out in the wash. Or charges
our instruments with shame. Makes me feel
derivative, like fried eggs and country ham.
Therefore, meanwhile, Spanish moss, dangling
modifier in the oak trees, give me time to watch
the white boats roll up the river, removed
from context. Like the aluminum fog of the football
stadium. The closer it got, the more those feelings.
Great Cloud of Witness, thanks for all this
forgiveness. Remember me to my love, I know
I’ll miss her.
Jeff Hipsher’s work has previously appeared in The Common, Phoebe, Forklift: Ohio, Sixth Finch and in the anthology It Was Written: Poems Inspired by Hip-Hop. Works cited in these poems include Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Experience,” Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg’s “Aint Nothin’ But a G Thang,” Clipse’s “Momma I’m So Sorry,” Johnnie & Joe’s “Over the Mountain, Across the Sea,” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Bad Religion’s “Man With a Mission,” Timothy Morton’s Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, Ada Limon’s “During the Impossible Age of Everyone,” and Neil Young’s “Mellow My Mind,” “Albuquerque,” and “Powder Finger.” He lives in Tallahassee with his wife Sarah and their dog, Emma Frost.
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox. Sign up for our Weekly Newsletter, Monthly Roundup, and event notifications.
Support us with a donation this giving season.
Robin D. G. Kelley on the midterm elections.
What we have achieved this year—and our plans for 2023.