The Iowa Review


Dim presence, where do we belong?
        Out in a far-flung mind I spent
        numb seconds counting possible homes. Pale self

those marble bodies of the long-ago dead
        were polished till they're sweating
        under overheads you feed

a coin into the wall to keep on. Last a minute, about. The steep            white slope
        her neck cuts brightest, head flung back out of
        definition. Where her face shades out the mania begins:

are you there are you there. It's the dream of never
        needing company, not speaking for however many hours,            sometimes
        days I walk up to this stone place on the hill

then back again. Wonder between. Then bunked below a man
        night air groans in and out of. There's some square heavy            thing
        up on a high shelf in my chest that gets

pushed off, it keeps happening. Pigeons
        swishing just above the hostel ceiling THAT I

VISION: I SAW AN after curfew, strangers' bodies harden into            sleep,
        their cells charge sky blue squares, occasional chime, a            guest, my skin
        gone dark. Lights off. Mornings I eat peaches till my hands            stick shut,

the evenings here are bronze sieves we get sifted through,
        my habits pestled finer now, a powder blown about
        a dilute ANGEL VERY NEAR ME, ON MY

        FOR THE static sequence tries to resolve: in this
        life we're little first and then the objects each get touched

by pin and air let slowly out so you might feel you're large and it's            called getting
        older. But nothing changed. What I spend of life is given back            to me
        unaltered, another day a slightly different temperature but            otherwise

but otherwise the same. Reply the numerals ARE OFTEN
        REPRESENTED to my mind. From their stacked beds rise.            Am I
        close to him? Then broke up into multiples, to restless,            wireless

heights the calculating spirit tends, its
        satellite mild-gleaming in dead air no breath pollutes. Look            down
        and tell me what I'm doing there TO ME AND YET IT IS            WITHOUT

MY SEEING THEM the mine from which
        the marble was cut from which I was
        five. I was a child for the first time

permitted to record the message. It was in the days of answering
        machines. AND AT THE ARROW'S just wings scuffling            against the roof.
        You only walk up from the square and put your coin in and the            light stays

on however many cents you've paid of time. It's what
        I come to see, the glare about her
        loose white arm carved limp as tissue POINT THERE

        APPEARED TO ME I afterwards begged to be walked out to
        the corner, quarter passed from fist to mouth was sour to            tongue

I slid it wet into the slot
        and bought my own voice telling me I wasn't there, "please            leave-

        I had a little life it was
        a pin to keep me fixed down to
        the ground a specimen in time its
        silver head my minute
        mirror to a single prick
        of color unattached

Black cashmere tightening
        its orbit at the throat of a tourist penciling the flexed
        foot of the Ecstasy in his notes. Did you feel it ring? Make me            recall

my sense through varicose marble
        to convey to the changing current
         "I will let, I know the edge, I wanted to go" on

the map we used to own that was what is
        beneath me, thumbtacks sunk into
        such delicate sky-blue water. Overheard

myself in the bar where the dates are
        chipped out of the wood ask a stranger which it was
        and how many I've been gone, each one with a private ledge

and a long way down that was
        passage "that was just a number
        I told you to give you an answer."


The Iowa Review

Founded in 1970 and edited by faculty, students, and staff from the renowned writing and literature programs at the University of Iowa, The Iowa Review takes advantage of this rich environment for literary collaboration to create a worldwide conversation among those who read and write contemporary literature.
     They publish a wide range of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, translations, photography, and work in emerging forms by both established and emerging writers. Work from their pages has been consistently selected to appear in the anthologies Best American Essays, Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, and The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories.

The Iowa Review online


Margaret Ross is the author of A Timeshare. She is currently a Jones Lecturer in poetry at Stanford.

"Responder" originally appeared in 43.2 (2013).

This page was first displayed
on February 13, 2018

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