John Estes


​A man and a woman talk on the phone.
These two in bed. Those like to text late at night.
No one stayed up for the meteors;
clouds obscured the eclipse.
She turns to him, actually or virtually,
and asks him why
he doesn’t smoke anymore, what happened?
He wonders in turn where love
disappears to when it’s gone as suddenly as
it so often arrives, but fails
to formulate this into a question.
She leaves him for another—​
sometimes man, sometimes woman—​
sometimes in his daydreams, sometimes in hers.
Sometimes they both leave,
other times it’s the groaning of plates
in the earth’s sockets until they see one another.
Forever is defined as however long
it takes before you start
attaching prefixes. The parallel to birds
ends about there.
A jackdaw, for example, takes up
with other kinds of crows just because it likes to.
Sometimes they hunt, other times they scavenge.
No such beast exists as
the common red bird or solitary nester.I ask myself, as she falls asleep in another room,
as the sun somewhere transits—​
how many false endings
one man is allowed per life, how inevitable
it was for the story to emerge
that a man spent three days in the belly of a great fish,
and how impossible it would be
no matter how bright the it of it burns
for anything ever to go well for that man again.

John Estes directs the Creative Writing Program at Malone University in Canton, Ohio and is on the visiting faculty of Ashland University’s Low-Residency MFA. He is author of Kingdom Come (C&R Press, 2011), Stop Motion Still Life (Wordfarm, forthcoming) and two chapbooks: Breakfast with Blake at the Laocoön (Finishing Line Press, 2007) and Swerve, which won a National Chapbook Fellowship from the Poetry Society of America.