Late Summer Ode

Olena Kalytiak Davis

Look, our little tree has taken root,presents its fruit: thirty-six or -sevenombré ways to cherry. Alone (and mute)in the garden I garden, alone inthe garden, I crawl like a slow flyover these books, I carry something out-sized, something heavy and "literary,"absurd and third, like an “act,” like an overburdened ant,alone in the garden, I Laevskymy catalogue (un-)raisonné. I am soChekhovian:            old sweater over oldunderwear, shoddy, woolen, unkempt ofUkrainian face, legs, hair, in the half-kept tender-ly un(der) tended garden.Like this: Like this, all summer, dishabille,dishabille, at the table, in ruth's chair,undistracted, able—yet—lacking ac-tion, thus, driven to distraction: (like this,like this, I move to-ward: the form of form.)something something something AND: o! there's our new wasps' nest— good for one summeronly. All the rest the rest repeatingrepeating: the sweet pea: revenant, re-established shooting its florescence upmy late vacant trellis: REPEATING:tender still and purple, purple. Some budsto flower, some to leaf, from shade to sunand sun to shade in search of a reliefthat never comes: in my Vishneviy Sad,sad, alone, just—holding—on: alea-tory, asinine, like some old world pass-erine, perched and panicked. and common.common, the visitors come, and (to some)relief, the visitors go, altricial,they say-sing, sing-said their made up songs:Michaela came and told her story: Ican't stay in the house now that Grandpa wantsto have sex with me. Now that he can't re-cognize me. Thinks I'm my dead grandmotherwho raised me. She's twentyseven, and met her boy-friendonline but, shhhhhh, she's already donewith him. She does not get along withher mother. She says her little sisteris the shit: on fleek, but complains thather sixth grade graduation eclipsed hermaster's celebration. Me and Rubyand Lyana and I listen. We watchher whip, we watch her nae nae. Rubyand Lyana stare at their more immedi-ate future. Fletcher and his brotherarrive. They brought oysters. But right now,right away they are hungry, hungry. Theyeat the kale salad, the homemade bread,the peach pie I baked, the CapreseI made, wash it down with beer, white white,Rosé, Rosé. They are from Juneau,New Zealand, and Maine, because Richard's mothergave him away when she was twentysix or seven. Thirty or forty years laterhe found his family. Now she's dead.I can't understand a lot of what'e 'aid: I can't see the resemblance, but,they are, some version of the same. Ruby's here,she's fourteen, here to visit her big-facedbloated father. Ruby's shorts are very short. Her motheris breaking up with her younghedge-fund husband—oh wait— no she's not.Ken was here a time or two, he's verythoughtful, he brought halibut, he brought“The Moose,” so then I spent a lot of timewith, yes, again, Cal and Elizabeth.I whispered this poem to herself. Pre-cipitate and pragmatical. No.Anomic and ominous. Yes. Auto-nymous. Jonathan visited once. Hetook an Instagram of the grapefruits'orange squeezed rounds repeating round the pinkcutting board. Vodka. Vodka. Although wehung out last summer, and I had wantedto hang out more, (I did, it's true, I "he likedyou, then he changed his mind") (and couldn't getit up) he now he lives with a pretty youngfat life coach and I was, i admit, a little bored.Then Kary came. She's my Bishop, I'm her Lowell. She magicked underthe tree with the green vine floweringyellow from a red hanging pot round the bluehula hoop; but she's starting to fade.She's in constant chronic pain. She still triesto groom it and tattoo it. Yeah, what arepoems and diaries for? Her young husbandread them the time before, last time she washere, loves her and treats her well (despite theun-unreversed vasectomy she soldhim from abroad). Yes, yes, yes. yes, thevisitors came, and the visitors went.                                                   (and everyone I asked to leave—has left)Back to my sole, my own alone: i proceedby light, by shadow, by mirrorand by picture window: ow! and oh! and ifi write letters to my old lovers, I write(s) to themfrom over there.                                                 (Dear J, Dear K, Dear L, Dear M, Dear                                                 N(!): remember the sex in LA? re-                                                 member the times in lakes tahoe and                                                 cuomo? remember that time in cassis,                                                 in paris, in marseille?)over here (dear Ch, Dear Jh, dear Bh), (in-versely and in a lower key), it's allless clear, like something other than apainting and a painting: a floweringorchard. a kettle of trees. under whichi self-protest, -process, and -recede. to-ward an un-impaired despair. in apicture bed! and on a picture chair! inthe garden, in the garden, (deceivingelf!,) my passions watered, i moderatemy sorrow, by measure, number, andby wait.                                                 from person to idea and                                                 idea to gate)and yeah.. . yeah, that WAS woodthrush. and that was night-gale, and that was Williams, (that was ashbery!?!) and that was                                 Keats(and that was some fine BULLSHIT) like a birdit all repeats repeats repeatsuntil the mating's done. like this, like this:i(t) moved from sun to shade and shade to sun:it all happened, it all happenedi(t all) ripened, gladdened, slackened, saddenedand it happened the same way nothing happensall of a sudden—alone in a garden—

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Olena Kalytiak Davis, a first-generation Ukrainian-American, was born and raised in Detroit and educated at Wayne State University, the University of Michigan Law School, and Vermont College. She is the author of four full-length collections. Her first book, And Her Soul Out Of Nothing (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997), received the Brittingham Prize. Kalytiak Davis’s honors also include a Rona Jaffe Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a Guggenheim. Kalytiak Davis lives in Anchorage and Brooklyn.

“As her fans know, Davis does not specialize in neat and tidy books. Some of her most memorable poems, such as ‘Francesca Says Too Much’ and ‘Francesca Says More’ and ‘Palimpsest,’ convey romantic attraction and abandon with a messy, you-are-there intimacy that seems to push written language beyond its usual borders and into the realm of sensation and sound. She delights in disorder, or she seems to, although when you pay close attention to her work, particularly her sonnets, you find a swing of metrical precision that calls to mind the Metaphysical and Cavalier poets of the 17th century. It’s this balance of rigidity, rhyme and ruin that makes an Olena Kalytiak Davis poem extraordinarily distinct.”
New York Times

“The balance of rigidity, rhyme and ruin . . . makes an Olena Kalytiak Davis poem extraordinarily distinct. Even when she’s alluding to Dante and Rilke and Chekhov, her voice is like no one else’s.”
New York Times, Editors’ Choice

“Defined by contradiction and balanced between past and present, these poems explore selfhood and place.”
Publishers Weekly

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