May 2000

Robert Kendall


Robert Kendall Robert Kendall is the author of A Wandering City, winner of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Prize, and a book-length work of hypertext poetry published by Eastgate Systems. His poetry has appeared widely in magazines in print and on the Web, as well as in several anthologies. His electronic poetry has been exhibited at many venues in the United States and internationally. He is the recipient of a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship, a New Forms Regional Grant, and other awards. He teaches creative writing for the New School University and runs the literary Web site Word Circuits.

A Study in Chronometric Geometries    Click to hear in real audio

The rain stopped as preposterously as it began
and the day stepped aside, surprised, as if making way
for a woman rounding the corner with her groceries.
The trees glistened and quivered.
What a perfect moment to be just stepping
out of the house and wondering where
the Earth has come back from
instead of standing there in the street,
dripping and shuddering, having become part of
the act that something has been caught in, messy
and embarrassingly irreversible.

Meanwhile, at that very moment, across town
(or perhaps it was many years earlier)
a woman walked from beneath an awning toward her car,
tired of waiting and deciding to take advantage
of a sudden break in the rain. The sun shone through
the cold, immaculate facets of event that glistened
outside the restaurant as perfect and unassailable
as the diamond on the ring in the pocket of the lover
who arrived late to find her gone and then went on
to marry someone else while she too continued on
to marriage by an alternate route and the giving birth to . . .
a great virologist who would cheat death of a terrible disease?
a serial killer? my father? your son-in-law?
Where does the shot finally land when
the happy couple fires into the air?

After 20 years of marriage, the middle-aged man
inserted himself into the young woman who was not
his wife, as if she were a measuring device
to tell him whether his life was half-full or half-empty,
as if every caress were the movement of a needle
that would hover for a second over the exact number
that proved the hypotheses he'd lived, if only
he could get a reading at precisely the right instant.
What could he have subtracted from
the next instant to get the right answer,
the instant when his wife opened the bedroom door,
having come home early because the performance
was rained out?

We tell time by tripping over the perfect moment,
breaking its mechanism, then picking
ourselves up and continuing on, knowing
or not knowing or maybe half-knowing of
the half-lucks and quarter-chances that lie scattered

like loose gears to rust in the rain.




Robert Kendall: Poetry
Copyright � 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 11The Cortland Review