The Cortland Review


A. Van Jordan

The Synchronicity of Scenes. A consideration
of poetry from the perspective of cinematography
(with video).

A. Van Jordan

Two new poems.

David Rigsbee

Review of Quantum Lyrics by A. Van Jordan.

James Bertolino

The Path of Water. An interview with James Bertolino.

A. Van Jordan

A. Van Jordan is the author of Rise, published by Tia Chucha Press, 2001, which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award and selected for the Book of the Month Club from the Academy of American Poets. Published by W.W. Norton & Co., 2004, his second book, M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, was awarded an Anisfield-Wolf Award and listed as one the Best Books of 2005 by The London Times (TLS). Jordan was also awarded a Whiting Writers Award in 2005 and a Pushcart Prize in 2006, 30th Edition. Quantum Lyrics was published July 2007 by W.W. Norton & Co. He is a recent recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, 2007.

A. Van Jordan - Poetry



My father's lungs linger,
Fighting under a white sheet.

I thought I could handle
Listening to the change of pace

Inside him: No song.
No known rhythm

I could recall. This night,
Sleeping beside him, I believe

I keep vigil, but death already
Has put his papers in order;

His passport awaits. I roll
Over in the cot next to his bed—

I dream I'm a boy sleeping
In the room with my parents,

As they try not to make love—
I roll back, and I'm a man again

Watching as the light shifts
To change scenes in the room.

I get up and touch his hand,
Nearly expecting him to wake

And call my name; I just want him
To know I'm here in a way

That we never could say to each other,
Anyway. In this room, I'm a ghost.

The TV glows on his face.
At this hour of night,

All commercials seem obscene,
But his face bathes in their blue light,

And he looks young again.
I see him heading out to work

In the stale air of morning;
An expiring moonlight frames him

In the doorway. The commercial changes
To another, and I hear the labor of his breath

As if his chest were a scale
And every ill deed of his life stands

Upon him, hoping to appear lighter.
The door is open.

A nurse looks in, tries to smile
But walks away, leaving her smile

Where she stood, as some god's
Shadow moves a bit closer.



A Song Composed from Forgetting    

I'm trying to make music from the sound
I hear outside my window, a siren
Coming and bleeding away, a girl's voice
Just beneath it—notes my flesh

Would somehow claim as music—
But I keep trying to make
Something else, something, if possible,
Less discordant than its chords of realities.

With my own name in memory,
A change in key depending on the day,
My body mutes through the change
In light, the change in time

Struggling to collect the past
And to make sense of a moment
Years before this one. Today, I just wonder
If some angel forgot his job,

Or did the day get a little longer,
Or did work simply realize it was work
As my memory fails to offer a salve.
My memory. I swear it happened like this:

It was in front of a People's Drug Store,
A couple fighting, if you could call her part
In it all, fighting; he had her by her hair,
With one hand, and he punched her with his free hand.

Her blood. I remember this most, and his face
Looking at me as if he would offer her to me
When he was done. And once I stepped in
To stop the scene mid action, they both stopped

And turned on me, the woman grew fists
And threw them at me
As if I had entered their bedroom
In the middle of some other act of love.

For all I know, this memory belongs to another,
Not only me, but also my mother or father,
Possibly them fighting in a dream.
Today, though, a girl's voice

Shatters outside beneath a siren
And it sounds too familiar,
Too much like a bell ringing
For years in my head, too much

Like too many neighborhoods
In which I've lived my life,
Voices falling not like leaves to the ground
But like glass from this window

Breaking with my gaze through it
With the lives I see as I refuse
To get involved, turning up the music
To dull my own hand

As it fingers notes through her dirge for help.



© 2007 The Cortland Review