Letters Written Near the End of the Cold War

I wonder if you’ve seen them on the hospital TV—
children on talk shows
who swear live inside them
the entire populations of small countries.

Multiples, abreactions—
big, formless hands make multiples, it’s like they
smash a shark tank and take all the glass,
then make something that walks and talks like a human being

it’s the story they don’t show you

not only in Edgewise or Northwest Oaks or Rattlewood
or whatever euphemism they have you in now,
it’s the story they won’t show you anywhere.

I haven’t read Rushdie, just know he’s in hiding.
Your in hiding’s a low security ward,
initials in permanent marker on the tag-ends of shirts.

Still in the world of names—
Swiss Army, Bic, Shelter Island, Poospatuck—

I’m on the late bus whose seats’
cigarette lighter marks and knife-slits
get sealed with What’s the Use tape,
the burn-out bus, so you called it,
the bus that still loops by the Poospatuck beach houses—
hilarious, sad, neutral—the same-worldness of it
occult graffiti on Chapter 11 plywood.

The library won’t carry the Rushdie, it carries nothing
but John Updike and Anne Tyler—
They used to have the Satanic Bible
but they had to take that one out.
They used to have a book that—

Oh, whatever, fuck it all, you said,
swallowing your one hundred aspirin.

Years of school we lived together
where substitute teachers borrowed the names of birds—
years of Mallard, Dove, Pigeon—

remember how you said,
giving everything a name,
that’s how Adam fucked it all up

Houses with boats in the yards,
then nothing, then houses
almost prosperous, not yours, not mine,
just me and the driver on the late bus.

I count what’s absent, a ghost list—

No you who speaks in double negatives,
no you who says I don’t not love you.

One blue this way, they said,
one blue that way—

Needs Another Seven Astronauts, they said.

The bad jokes came up like mushrooms after the Challenger burned;

now East is West, West is East in Berlin;
Checkpoint Charlie buys the farm—

It’s the names
that fall and don’t fall, I see that now,

and M., I don’t half-miss you.
Get yourself home.

Our names are deep in the book
and the story makes little sense
but at least you can count on
it always starting with the same naked man
making the same indelible mistakes.

Michael Tyrell is the author of the poetry collection The Wanted and has published poems in many magazines, including recent issues of Fogged Clarity, The New Republic, and The Iowa Review. With Julia Spicher Kasdorf, he edited the anthology Broken Land: Poems of Brooklyn.