Three Poems
Dan Chelotti

The Meadow Beyond the Trees

Nought may endure but mutability. 
       –Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Mutability"


I sat here last year to write you. 
Right here. Or was it here? 
This imprecision suffocates
my desire to find the song among
the chords so I repeat repeat
three notes until the hawk glides 
around the corner and the past
dissolves. Every year the tree
stretches as much as it can
to add new spirals to the gyre –
why is it that I want it to be 
the same tree? The hawk lands 
on a branch. The barber walks 
out of his shop, looks at the hawk. 
I see him do this almost every day.
A man in a white hat 
is circling the building, taking
pictures for his own reasons.
The barber and I look at him.
The man walks away. The barber
goes back in his shop.  The tree
shimmers in gentle wind and the hawk
flies away. Next year will I reencounter 
this moment and be unable to write because
I want it all to happen again?
And the only way to overcome it
will be to sit on the edge of the meadow
at dusk and wait for the fireflies.
And sure enough they come.
Indistinguishable from last year
and the year before and the year before
piping to the spirit ditties of no tone
unless I leave this song and kiss you.
But God I love the song. The hawk
forever in the tree forever in the tree,
the barber and me forever 
in the white capped man’s pictures
pushing our way toward forever
in some forgotten folder labeled Potential
Properties. And you and I, forever
skirting the edge of the meadow
right here forever at 11:19 a.m. on June 9,
2014 as it looks like it’s going to rain.
It’s going to rain. It is not going to rain.


The bird sings somewhere in the tree.
I look up in the tree. The bird sings
again. I look up. Scarlet tanager.
I have never seen one before. Firebird.
New song. I am walking down thin
streets, an accordion playing
a song I do not recognize. I was on
a mountain - how am I here? New song.
I am throwing a baguette in the air
and catching it. A bird singing somewhere.
I can’t see the new bird in the new tree.
How long do I have to repeat myself
so I can? Scarlet tanager. 
I have heard it before but now 
that you are hearing it the song
is new. The song feels new. New song.
The first notes of Eleanor Rigby. 
I recognize it immediately. Old song.
I am an amazing parallel parker.
I will fit in that spot and we will link
arms and walk into the tavern 
and sing that old song with Billy
Jim Bob Bob and all the lonely people
will look at us and mouth the words
afraid to sing and in so doing make
it new. New song. Scarlet tanager.
Look how fucking red it is. Flying bread.
Flying through the air to attend
the funeral, the grief droning
with an imperceptible quaver
through the air. When flying was new.
A gallon of milk rolls around the corner.
She dropped it. She made it new.
I look up in the tree. I don’t know 
this song. I can’t see it. Can you see it?
Contrails glimpsed through leaves.
New glasses. New leaves. This song
hasn’t been new in a long time
but you make it new. New love.
A way of pulling something new through
something old. To end. To let it end.
Another way is to prevent it from ending,
but that takes longer. That is the way
most people do it. I do it that way too
sometimes. I look up at the same
tree and see the same bird 
from the same angle every day.
Proceed in this way and you get
a new bird every seven years.
I can’t wait that long. New song
in the Hour of Lead. It is hard.
But we can do it. Link arms now.
Sing loud now. Oh look at all the lonely
people. Look at all the lonely people.
Look at all the lonely people
until you see the scarlet tanager. 
Look how red it is, you say.
My dear, I say, that bird is scarlet.


Some fugues try too hard, exhaust
the math that drives them. They
resolve and resolve and although 
a relief from the unrelenting traffic 
of birds from strip mall signage to nest,
the idea grows apparent and cancels
the sunset by denying the mist
that sits on the road that splits
the meadows under the gloaming.
To sum up a life is to deny a life.
The sound of a prop engine 
humming over the same
meadow is the same as it ever
was, and the smell of baking wild
irises is the same as it ever was.
So now what? Is feeling alive enough? 
And with the question some x 
to solve for begins to form:
a woman walks out of the heather,
her shoulders flush from the sun,
and hands me an orange. It is so
delicious. We share it. We kiss.
And then she is gone. It is an old
story. I sit alone in a window and
rehash it. There is a hawk in the tree.
There is a barber.  There is a man
taking photographs and a song
we all know. The sun is rising.
It is setting. Beneath the horizon
of lace the skin my fingers traced
was skin I wanted more of,
and still I want more of it,
and I want more trees beyond
these trees and I want to walk
into the meadow and into the meadow
and into the trees and into the meadow
and I want to dance with you 
beneath the screaming stars
until the edge of morning repaints
the edges of everything new.
Is that too much to ask? Let’s let it end
so we can begin the dance again:
I sat here last year to write you.
Right here. Or was it here?


The Road. The Road. The Road.

I spend most of my time 
on the road. It comforts me
the way the shore comforts
the ferrier. This one time
I was in Bled and this man
with enormous hands rowed
me out to an island where
I was supposed to ring a church
bell and be forgiven or make a wish
or yell Goodbye you marvelous
Zeppelins! And the man
rowed his boat the way people
do anything hard a million times –
with vigor. That’s how I drive – 
with vigor. Anyhow, as I watched
the man’s sinewy hands churn
the water I thought about
vocabulary books and how
for some mystical purpose
among the lovers and shadows
and edges of fountains
I remember ‘sinewy’ appearing
just above ‘titular’ in the mustard
vocab book. And I thought about
how fucking hard it must be
to row this boat filled with 8 or 9
people all itching to ring a bell.
I stared at the glacial water
and the monstrous Alps 
and I turned to my companion
and said: I am the happiest
when I am driving 
an acquaintance to the airport!
I lean on the central console and ask her,
What are you planning to do
with the rest of your summer?
We can talk of successes and glories
and of how fragile we all are,
I make sure to exclaim,
How fragile we are! Life!
Let me recite to you 
the end of a poem I wrote 
called The Road The Road The Road:
As the sinewy titular elf nears
the peak, certain that this peak
will be the last peak on his long
and terrifying journey
to the home of the sun,
he sings a song of homecoming,
of clasped hands and wine.
The moment before he becomes
an unseen figure on someone’s
horizon he feels a moment
of great despair: What for the world
whose margin fades and moves as I move?
What for it? And so he reaches the top
and sees nothing but nothing
and a stretch of road. Come, my friends,
he says to no one, I will take
you to the place you need to go.
I will show you what is there,
and I will remember all of it.
This is the way. This is the road.


To Those Who Would Advise Me How To Feel

When I was a teenager I conceived
an epic called Whale Song. A poem
of 18 pages about my father’s madness
that didn’t go anywhere and bored
everyone. For years I kept writing seeking
a magisterial emotion that would rise
like an angry star over our carnivorous
world and set my ancestors on fire.
It didn’t come. I took long walks
and took no drugs. I threw my negligible
weight at the lever, but the lever
would not budge. I didn’t know yet
that no one can advise anyone 
to feel other than they feel –
even themselves. Especially themselves.
But I let the desire for the right kind of light 
devour the available light and I put down 
the book, allowed the equation to numb my senses
enough to say This is who I am today
this is my love and these are my rags
and this is the only kind of cookie
I will ever eat. I will drive this way
to work every day and in so doing
wear a rut into the earth as deep
as the rut that Titan left when they
dragged him to Nyx. Holy rut!
In supplication I kneel within you
and from you arrange my totems,
my broadcloth dictums and my bile
in the dirt of the rut, in the rut
of my rut, I am this, and I am only this,
and I am only this this, I am.
           Thank god I got over this.
Now I only kiss those I want to kiss
not those I want to want to kiss.
Oh, that’s bullshit. The temptation
to close myself into one room
is always there because I am afraid
I will like my father give myself
to the chaos of the coin toss
until the randomness and red meat
makes my heart explode.
I don’t want to die. Who does?
I want to dance until everyone
here is looking at me. I don’t
want to join the line of pointing fingers
that point at me, that tell me,
Dan, you are misbehaving,
this poem is more like a poem
you used to write than the poems
you are writing now. Fall back in.
And while you are at it, be this kind
of human or else we will ignore
you when we pass you on the street.
This happens. This actually happens.
And it breaks my heart. Why do people do this?
I am only trying to skip this stone
as many times as possible before it sinks.
And as I watch this most recent
stone sink, two dogs charge barking 
and my daughter grows afraid 
and I hold her head to my chest
and say, It’s ok, Selma. It’s ok –
that’s what dogs do sometimes.
And she looks up at me 
and says, No, Daddy, it’s ok, 
I’m going to love them anyway.


Dan Chelotti is the author of x (McSweeney's) and the forthcoming chapbook Compost (Greying Ghost Press). He teaches writing at Elms College and lives in Massachusetts.