Thursday, October 4, 2012


The apartment on Francis Avenue
We lived in for three years in graduate school
In the nicest - or maybe second nicest - part of Cambridge,
On the third floor of Joe and Annie's house

Just up the street from the Divinity School.
John Kenneth Galbraith lived next door;
Julia Child's Kitchen was across a backyard fence
I'd hang around trying to look hungry,

And emulating her we rented a meat locker at Savanor's,
Where I'd stop to pick up a pot roast or a steak
Before coming home to Jeepers waiting for me in the window.
Everything happened then, in two or three years

That seemed a lifetime at the time:
The War and SDS and music; the confusion in the streets
And Nixon; poetry and art and science, philosophy and immunology,
The dinners at Bill and Willy's loft in Soho -

Yet what still stays with me is the summer of 1973,
The summer before we moved to Milwaukee, with my dissertation done
And time to kill, suspended on the brink of real life.
I would read the first draft of "Self-Portrait"

John had let me copy, and Gravity's Rainbow,
And every afternoon I'd ride my bike to Bob's house
Where I'd watch the hearings on TV. And on a Saturday in June,
With the living room awash in the late yellow light

That filtered through the western dormer window,
We watched, just out of curiosity, this horse I'd read about
- And what I knew about the Sport of Kings was nil -
Turn what till then had been an ordinary day

Into one as permanent as anything in sports or art or life,
As Secretariat came flying through the turn with the announcer crying
"He's all alone - he's moving like a tremendous machine,"
And Susan shouting "Look at that horse! Look at that horse!"

The summer sort of dribbled away. We took a last trip to New York,
John and Rebecca stopped over on their way to somewhere,
James and Lisa too, whom I hadn't seen in years,
And then we packed our stuff and took the cat and drove away.

Nixon hung on for a while, and then - but that's history,
Real history, not this private kind that monitors the unimportant
For what changes, for what doesn't change. Here I am,
Living in Milwaukee twenty-nine years later.

Susan lives about a mile away, and just last Saturday
The latest wonder horse, War Emblem, stumbled in the Belmont Stakes.
What makes a life, if not the places and the things that make it up?
I know that I exist, but what about that place we lived? Is it still real?

- Of course it is. It just gets harder to see
As time goes by, but it's still all there. Last month in Rome
The first thing Lisa said was that I looked just like myself, but with
    white hair.
And there it is: look at the tiny strawberries and the

Flowers blooming in the garden of the house next door.
Look at John Dean, still testifying on that little screen, and Rogers,
Who died in May, still talking in our small blue dining room.
Look at Savanor's, the unkempt lawn, the mailbox by the back porch,

Jeepers waiting for me in the window. Look at that horse!

- John Koethe

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