“I’m not trying to say anything. Saying is not the only way to make meaning in the world.”
— visual artist Arthur Jafa
Austin Araujo is a writer from northwest Arkansas. He is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Indiana University where he received an Academy of American Poets Prize. His poems are published in or forthcoming from Shenandoah, Memorious, The Rumpus, Four Way Review, and elsewhere.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Austin, what poems have you brought for us today?
Within Earshot of 1991
The scene isn’t too hard for us to see: a short
white girl with bright orange curls, socket
wrench in hand, “Little Red Corvette,”
on cassette and blasting. Her car a metaphor
for a horse, a Mustang, that she’s maintained
for at least three years now. Brooke has too much
denim on and a light green jacket that
tells us it’s still autumn in Arkansas. The car
as street-ready as it will ever be, a steed
prepared for the kick from slow strut to gallop.
If we turn around, we can see her father emerge
by the driveway, making the walk from house
to shop, crossing the overgrown field
toward her as this image gives way to theater.
See him arrive and shout at the girl, his neck
seizing and straining out sounds that send Brooke
inside herself. We can’t quite make out his words
like a movie a mother watches with the door
closed, leaving only the schematics of its voices
for her sons to parse. Watch him finish and go
back home. Brooke remains. She sits inside the car
that she’s worked from junk into capable beast
and which she will see for the last time at 2am
some Friday soon, its brakes like a husband who
loses himself just at the moment he’s needed most.
We see her turn the music up a little. She looks out
the dirty windshield that’s just clear enough
to see a few birds flock to the shedding trees
that surround her family’s home.
She pulls her jacket close, the chill of night
beginning. And somewhere under the machine
everyone and their mother calls a horse, a leak.
As if disabused, he let the notion of ever leaving go.
Calm as a sea, finally, here, on the bed’s edge,
he waited for himself to arrive. Shadows grew up
along gray walls as he sat and evening
rang its bell outside the window. Cicadas talked.
Pinecones clattered on the ground. The boy
waited with the patience of a renovated cathedral.
He sat so that he might finally be filled
with himself, sat still so that when he arrived,
he’d see himself and not have to flag him down
with both arms waving in the air like somebody
stranded on an island trying to get the attention
of the first airplane in weeks. And so he waited.
Waiting proved uneasy though still. And he
did not weep for he would have had to wipe
the ensuing snot from his face and who knows
what would have happened next. And so weighing
the edge of the bed down, its old frame almost
buckling, slats like ribs holding a heart or lungs
which contracted, or exhaled, as the boy rose
at last with himself, himself holding himself
through this vigil, the visionary vigil of children
which ends the way a leak completes a boat:
one sputter at a time until the craft is overtaken.
In my dream, I give you a car to cross
that lonely little kiss of a border.
I brush your name on the fence
built to keep you out; illuminate
something like a scar on its metal canvas.
Yes, beneath this grid of second sight,
I meddle with your crossing,
label it one of our familial geneses.
Yes, let me guide you—
if only in the dream,
if only to see you arrive—home.
You've been listening to the poetry of Austin Araujo on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.