Home / Columns / Poetry / MAKESHIFT MEMORIAL


Aug. 7, 2011
Google plus Linkedin Pinterest


The truck is finally warming up.
More than rain has turned to snow.

With my window down, flecks of neighborhood.

Unlit homes and homes lit cold with cable,
the bolting of startled formations.

Between houses, I watch kids crush empty beer cans
between their boots and the frozen lake.

No one else here to notice them,
to notice the stoplight changing

so I idle and read the kids quietly to myself.

The radio clips the Secretary of State
into men blurting loose about terror, adaptation,
the protesters encircling the capitol.

There is a jarring in their voices,
something crucial just out of distance,

A feedback loop of untucked mouths.

Theirs is a safety I’m afraid of.
A safety no longer in numbers.

I haven’t given up yet.

The boys beg the girls to chew tobacco.
The girls beg the boys to pull their sleds back up the hill.

They do not notice the junta’d lights across the lake
slogging the white air toward us.


Near shore, the kids unfold in trace amounts. 
Some passed out, some bleating.

Some filling condoms with spigot water, laughing 
at the crude pocks of creamlight stalled in rubber.

On Dairy Queen napkins, I write these words

and these words sketch lightly a creaking nostalgia 
upon the backs of the kids with my eyes.

I crumple each try as I finish, 
glut the cab floor, the clotted dash.

There is barely a fiction to find of myself

in their clinging near the fire, their groping
to the shit-rum’d hearts of each other.

But barely is sufficient in a moving world.

It is all I can do to keep from burring softly 
to the hems of their coats, reminding them

that the lake is never still below the ice,

that the trills of the blue jays stalling outside 
are really the forward sirens of an untucked city, 

a city fucking un-awed, a city dividing by dividing.

I want to get out. I want to walk to them.
Through the smell of new telephone poles.

Through the burning aspartame.

Through the slopping, citied snow, 
the plow-heaps like massive smoker’s lungs.

I want to summit and descent toward the fire pit,
the kids sleeping like kindling, covetless,
snow gauzing them unshaken and gray.

I want to have a blanket for each of them.
I want to take their soiled clothes away in bags,

hose the driveways clean of vomit, spilt cereal, 
the long, dry skins of their sweet hearts scabbing over.

I want to make sure they’re tucked in, 
not leaving, not dreaming 
of birds trapped behind heaters,

not mistaking themselves for vended litter  
gathering in gusts against alley walls.

Walls they could regain with ease.
Walls they could kudzu over.

They think the cans they’ve crushed on the ice
will shhh into the lake once its surface thaws.

They think they are pioneers,

think they know what will be left  
of them and what will be grist.

But I haven’t given up yet.

I want to volunteer myself as a witness.
 I want to fill out a form that says I am responsible.

I want to bless their hearts, 
but it’s not that easy.

Adam Fell is the author of I Am Not a Pioneer, published by H_NGM_N Books
 "http://www.h-ngm-n.com/not-pioneer/", and the chapbook Ten Keys to Being a Champion On and Off the Field (H_NGM_N 2010). He was born and raised in Burlington, Wisconsin, and holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he teaches at Edgewood College and co-curates the Monsters of Poetry reading series.  “Makeshift Memorial” first appeared in  I Am Not a Pioneer.


Would white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan pose the same threat they do now if a mainstream Republican were president instead of Donald Trump?

Getting poll results. Please wait...