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  • Writer's pictureRyan Nowlin

Time with the Season

Time with the Season

Time with the season: only she doth carry

June in her eyes, in heart January.

---The Spring, Thomas Carew


Three times in my life I’ve heard that cellophane

sound (shrink-wrapping the bloody circumstances

until the words are colorless) standing between a corpse

and an open window on a summer’s day.

I was thinking about what Larry Fagin said

before he died about paradise, poetry and love-

of those poetry being the hardest to hang

on to. The big fish was “all head” and very

difficult to catch, but sometimes twenty years

will go by and Le Monde might report that

a certain Mossad assassination had taken place

near the Eiffel Tower with its one pyramid

eye casting a street lamp onto someone’s head.

Then there was a droning sound of a blimp

above the cars that streaked past as pressure

built up in the forehead. You can’t convince

me that I was sharing in some collective

hallucination for a new season and/or a

companionable nostalgia for the Greeks.

The evening window dreams: as I do with

the sun fading on the magpie brown carpet.

The cupboards were full of colorful cans.

Can the dog stay put or be whistled inside?


I was beginning to catch the writing bug like Dean,

but lacked the bandwidth to take on anything new.

I thought of Spain before Rudy was born,

and the weird phosphorescent void of Lincoln Tunnel.

A slow opening in the sycamores on a sunlit

morning was the only thing between us and

these random propositions and far out worlds

and seasons, more suggestive of affirmation,

fate and the funny scent from the fungus chewing

its way out of boxes—-Psyllid pouring from

car window. Colors coalesce black and maroon,

inspired by Spain and the film we watched

together on BBC’s Channel Four. Anything can be

dispensable and invaluable—-understated

flirtations, a numb sky, oxymoronic phenomena

like “affordable housing”, the evanescence

of vapor, hard water, the beauty of drifting

trash or a spare cigarette lit and cupped

against the wind in a lyrical gesture

all can be reduced to its nuisances, belabored

propositions or a litany of excuses with some

nagging nostalgia for an Iberian shore

taken in small doses. The list is an absolute

good and all around its margins lies the channel

or a new category. That’s how it goes.

All understand the magic regarding what is open

to me in the repetition. But you, dear reader,

are an in depth person proud and sad

with a face for all weathers and seasons.

I think this is an act of repositioning--

or a darkening of responsibility.


In the white sterility of the frozen food empire

I once lost my mind. What remained was sold to

a grocery outfit. White bear of the poles, white

shark of the tropics—-instances of freezing.

The dank foreboding of our wine cellar, now much

bigger, a metaphysical winter of snow and salt.

The idea that money should settle upon me

like a gentle snowfall, but little snows falls in

March. A place holder word adds nothing to

the familiarized working mind. One’s absence

from the social scene is live-able up to a point.

The Zinc Bar made each arm of Buddhism a tough

sell. Poet identities are in decline these days;

Sipping perceptions from the wine basket of inquiry—-

Or what you’d call uneventful French writing.

Recently, I bought an expensive dog,

a French Griffon and an “armoire comme toutes

les armoires”, stuffed with Parking tickets.

Three or four things had fallen into my lap

unexpectedly, a vacation home and some

mysterious ailment causing me to roll over

onto the stone floor by the hotel pool shaded

by a few sickly palms recesses where tireless

minds display their most secretive and affordable

memories. What if the graph of set expectations

was itself unmoored and you no longer knew

Where you were standing?

To remain goal oriented across a span of time

as one does for a dead-line with purposes

unknown. Something you said in passing

about how we can no longer tell the seasons

by the fruit we find at the market. I guess

there was something practical to learn

in the nursery. I was riveted to a view of the

ocean and the beach ball. The wind didn’t

stop. Without identity all is lost, paper is scarce.

If we use less we’ll have little to say.

My affairs turn out badly, the sky papered

over with flimsy nuances. They cross the limit—-

You’d think, by now I’d be used to the rain

stealing the light and the girls in galoshes

waiting for the drug stores to open.


Is ordinary fruit no longer acceptable? Must it be

pomegranate or mahogany antique? Are puzzlers

found only on $ 100 bills? Are the plazas to be unshaven,

trickling down to the poor like a useless tear?

When sitting next to beautiful people the most

endearing object was always you. Anyway, you’ll

never get to know them not even their Christian names,

with the terrible onslaught of breakfasts, brunches

and phone calls, all that schlepping and shelving

because you don’t want anything extraneous in

your way. Some liked the gorging, yet nothing

happened and they flew away beyond a white wall.

Can you keep up? It’ll take weeks to fill you in on

the savory details. Me, I’m doing ok up here in

my crumbling crows nest. Land ho ( I guess) a newly

minted land called Israel, not part of any one person.

Its boulevards go quickly by, flanked by houses

not built to be lived in, flagstones set for you

to walk on or between. A joyful evening on a sad

occasion is better than the reverse, I suppose.

Nights after my father’s death I carried

my briefcase up and down the stairs to a carrel

in the library. Dorm life was sublime, with its moon-

shaped elevator dials. Footnotes come to mind

and a subsequent march in a continuous succession

of goose steps. Then after a month long hiatus

I resumed donating blood to the Red Cross.

Research made everything take longer, even writing.

A parade of authors. As the visible world disappeared

the word, spit or spirit entered my mind like a distant

steam boat. The fan’s steady whirr of where...where?

Lulls, scolds. Come back into the beyond.

The darkness of a plum high in the plum tree


Are a deer and her fawn in early morning

watchful, on “alert” a dream or a naive conceit?

Thinking they are unobserved, they bed down

in the mulch, leaves flickering between light

and shadow. To wander from room to room, so quiet,

a hair descends, steps creak, finger tips

drip heat or sitting errant, a little inscrutable

world in a pinprick. This shelter of neglect

and decades long delay, whiskered white

repairs fall from the sky and exit or enter.

The poor light up the island, whispering the “truth”

about “lonesome” Jim, the tortoise who ignored

his companion for ten years before

attempting to mate with her again.

Then he died. A black bird caught a worm

it could not eat all at once. Feigned affection

bounces right off me shining the x-ray

beam on the paint chips in Van Gogh’s beard,

which may have staved off his madness.

Van Gogh’s leaky jar placed in a marsh,

it’s cross-hatched reflection on the still

surface of the water. The day wore on as if it

had been etched in with a stencil,

or with slanting pencils of sunlight.


I took pleasure in the disorder of the day,

transport, place names, prolonged absences,

now a rolodex of faces, compressed knees,

crowded train, found a seat between standees,

filling of pages. Time bent inevitably without

my knowing, shapes right around the corner.

I went as myself changing course now and then

to make sure I would up where ever.

It made sense to certify myself as baluster,

oriel, book plate or console.

To circle places and things, hover over them,

honeyed, haunted lost names---a table, a swan,

sudden beauty of the sky trapped in a puddle,

Bach, stone, a tree that bore the zig-zag

of branches shagged with ice, toupees of grass

that sprouted from regions still scarred

from winter. All this was throughly researched.

What was broken inside could not

be rejoined to a vertebra of metal.

The city presented itself as a glint of light;

the sky swollen violet, the hue of swollen

gum lines. As a child I conceived of the city

as something behind the border, somewhere

abroad. Every time someone in my family

drove there I would imagine crossing

this border to a place which was new, scentless

and sober. Here everything was out in

the open. At first glance the city seemed

to be without its secrets, but a tension

in breadth and height, nothing else.

Everyone knew that behind the bleakest

facades extraordinary things were happening.  

So I linger in certain rooms, seeking the indefinable

something from the earlier life lived in these streets. 


Nearly everything that passed through

my hands slipped away, change, pens,

my waiter, who was abstractly preoccupied

with how little time there was. Has it come

to this, at last? I’d prefer a less despairing cup

commemorating my birthday rather than

one pieced together again. Should we pay

fealty to objects or map ourselves in the gaze

of the Medusa with every line of flight across

cornices, flagstones, arcades traveling

inward towards a sovereign spectator

One asks when will I find love?

I don’t know, maybe next Wednesday?

I go along like a bird, staring into the dark

of this soft June if only to traipse through mop

drenched trash with all its yeses and nos.

The breakfast rolls shuffle across the boulevard

until my waiter in a dark vest looks over my bill

with his adding machine. How do flies die?

Virginia said she liked the word breach.

So a word that once existed faded by the end

of Wednesday. My friends come upon

by happenstance in adventures I never had---

That’s the way it went. I wanted to live

my life in such a way that each moment expressed

some connection to the one that preceded it or

at least someone to walk beside.

Whoever is alone by the end of Autumn will publish

sparingly or quit altogether for twenty years

or so to find out how the mind works, others will

spend time explaining the difference between

The New Yorker and a scratchy sweater


This farce of an arcade with coded

patterns for a new season, its arrival

and departure. I tried to refuse the outcome.

I put on blinders and a sleeping mask,

but still the upset came bearing gifts:

a watch, a wallet, Godiva chocolates.

and it wouldn’t stop. When we confronted

it, nothing. A faint smile of acknowledgment.

A few subway maps representing the figure

of the Narcissus projecting himself into

a sphere of influence. A desire

for self reflection leads you to smoke

in the garage which smells like

failure. That one wouldn’t be able to cope

without spending at least three consecutive

days in the city was the unintended

complication of having a home in the

suburbs one could return to. I had long

ago lost interest in the ocean,

the environment, and was out of touch

with just about everybody, starting

with my own family. Friends will confirm

that I’ve been going on about it forever,

without realizing how long it would take

to get there, or that so much would

happen before I did. I’ve tricked myself

into believing in one button saved

everyday even if by age fifty there’s no 401 K

to live off. Cypress and Indigo led odd lives,

often departing from a grid of plants,

a sheen of a dense selection of rose buds.

A rose is an unremarkable plant

for a dog unless another dog has planted

it’s urine on it. The lives of insects those

the size of buttons beneath broken glass tinfoil

dying plants, the wing of death overhead

it’s fly ointment in the bathroom fifty

miles East from Denver. Begin at fifty

and walk backwards. Mother’s trick of forcing

empty ketchup and out fly the words.

You can’t even live. It’s nothing, but

where to plant one’s feet to look for

missing buttons. Isabella of Bavaria made them

very fashionable. Pedestrians could live

or die leaning against the flying buttress

through shadow, dust and fly buzz.

Dickens kept mum about the prospect of losing

it all to death, even though he invented

the cliffhanger, the paperback and Miss Havisham’s

yellowed wedding dress. The wind through

a skeleton had no story to tell, neither

had we, so there was nothing to lose.

Yet the cliffhanger had to be resolved

Magwitch left for the dusty new world

where convicts could lose themselves.

Overall, too dusty, bad insects.

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