John Estes

It Must Be Abstract

​Everything quintessential like a tiny screwdriver
Around the house or a coatrack or a contrail
That appears just as you’re looking up
Like an autumn mist or a snow melt
Grist we never asked for or the cocktail fork she lost
(All we ever found were olive pits)
That night the actor came and probably stole a dish
But left behind his nearly new D&G jacket
A black one with a broken zipper and ticket stub
Collection in one pocket which I eventually lent out
Never to see again just like the friend
Lent out as I did those several parts of myself
Those eight years they kept calling marriage
And maybe that’s just what there is
This is what they meant when they likened difficult
Breathing to the contours of surviving
At altitude which is to say achieving
That which presents itself as yours to achieve
But what if what you find at the end
Of exertion is not transfiguring but merely tiring
What if the slow descent they call the rest
Keeps filling you with sturdy dread
You search everywhere for the necessary tool
And no number of dinner parties and house concerts
Seem sufficient to resuscitate the wonder
And all you can think of is that purple dotted
Shirt you used to wear and all the times
You wished you could jet off to where it rains
You swore you’d never stop no matter what because
You believed there existed right things
Because the myth of Sigrid fed your hope
That a formula exists where eternity won’t obviate
Wisdom because it’s simple at its simplest
Everybody knows to start from the left and work in

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.