Two Poems by James Armstrong
A Walk in the Snow
Snowfall on the Buick dealership—
the negative and all-negating white
draping the new models in their ordered spaces—
slope-shouldered, mammalian, innocent, each
like Tolstoy’s cab horse, you might think,
standing outside of a tavern, silent, obedient—
not to say—no, not to say forlorn,
though any object done in monochrome
is formal; also tainted with nostalgia.
A horse is not a postcard. Nor are these
stilled vectors commemorating innocence
or service. Or transport. It’s certain
a horse can eat a landscape, but
think of these cars, standing in the weather.
Think of the hot centuries they devour.
Contemplating a Phrase from Lewis Mumford
while walking downtown (grey afternoon) past
midwestern Main Street decayed storefront
business blocks, whose redbrick cornices
and Roman windows date from the Age of Garfield—
steam and sawdust, armbands and spittoons,
reek of the outhouse, the brewery’s yeast perfume,
chickens in the backyard, rhubarb and morning glory,
whores and grocers, the millinery shop on Third Street,
Dentists and opium, William Morris wallpaper,
medals for Antietam and for Sunday school,
gone now like the clop of carriage horses
or the umbrageous tunnels of the elm leaf.
Gone the collective energies confronted and risen to—
parking lot, parking lot, gas station, parking lot.
James Armstrong is the author of two books of poetry, Monument in a Summer Hat (New Issues) and Blue Lash (Milkweed). He teaches English at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.