The Sensible Present Has Duration

The Sensible Present Has Duration

The Sensible Present Has Duration

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A weekly poem, read by the author.
Dec. 15 1999 3:30 AM

The Sensible Present Has Duration

O blistering cabinet


O mahogany, O birch pipes,
pipe rack, hardcover

books--The Last Convertible, Trinity,
The Royal Wedding,

Biography of Patton.
Railroad spike inscribed

On your thirtieth year
as a soldier, from the 73rd

Mail-order crest, name etched
in "runic" script.

O photograph


by false cures,

my uncle, age nine, no more
appointments, strawberry-sized

tumors dotting his spine,
O icicle, formed for dissolution,

"pride" or portent. Military olive.
Tuque, wool surrogate.

Lilac, every tree alike,
What name but alabaster.

O window


outside, my grandfather wheeling
a pesticide tank

from tree to tree, spraying everything
with thick, white foam,

bark, leaf, apple flesh,
salting the garden

with handfuls of red sand, dissolving
aphid, Japanese beetle, horned tomato worm

as thick as rope. Gone in an instant,

from his fiberglass outbuilding shed, helving
an axe, bright blade, pine handle,

to eliminate a dwarf orange weakened
by nesting beetles.

O ordinary axe


lilac, uncle, window, cabinet,
lost, not lost, mere home

I merely left, look away
made elegy: a book's

fifth edition, its
yellow cover, not the available red--

instruction manual
for an old-world,

Beta VCR, The Way
split by a nylon dividing ribbon.


An out-of-print book.

A remainder.

Dan Chiasson's poems appear in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Threepenny Review, and elsewhere.