Trace A Line
Once, when I was home, my father told me: You have the bloodof 100,000 innocent Iraqis on your hands. This was confusingbecause when I was twenty-one and flying into Harare,he said that it would be better to join the army.But I didn’t, and I didn’t understand the change of heart:his slip between ‘we’re-all-in-this-together’ and‘you’re-here-on-your-own.’ That evening I sawa snake contorting itself around itselfover and over. Quickly, I warned my neighbor,but she said she had already seen it. It had beenpoisoned in her garage, and she had tossed itover the fence into our yard. I wanted to askwhy she didn’t lie when she had the chance,it would have been easy enough, the right thing to do,better than pretending the snake wasn’ta living thing dying in front of me, better thanadmitting she had chosen our yard for that.But I didn’t ask her, I just noddedand steered the mower in a wider perimeteraround the snake’s seizing body.
“Trace A Line” from Company © 2019 by Sam Ross.
Appears with the permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Sam Ross has received fellowships and support from Columbia University, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Watermill Center, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. His work has appeared in the New Republic, Denver Quarterly, Tin House, and elsewhere. He grew up in Indiana and lives in New York City.
The poems of Company move through different landscapes—urban, Midwestern, foreign, coastal—navigating themes of misperception, memory, threat, risk, and heartbreak—all while engaging with an electrifying sense of possibility—of rapture, of devotion, of understanding. “What I want is you to see / what is backlit, behind me. / Not the silhouette—but the negative space / I make blocking light.” Ross’s book is sensual, political, ghostly, and frank; what a close friend or beguiling stranger might whisper in your ear in the corner of a crowded party to make you say, “Tell me more.”
“Ross pitches nothing less than a stubborn belief in tenderness and in the patience both to look everywhere for it and to trustingly wait for it (“I would learn rare // and love and want and wait. / I had to start at the beginning.”) This is a debut both tough and tender, the poems of a man who’s been made to look away from the world plenty, and has found a way to look steadily back.”