Don’t Go Expecting

J. Allyn Rosser

Spring 2018

“. . . It has been the custom of travellers to describe and group together
all the fine plants they have met with during a long journey,
and thus produce the effect of a gay and flower-painted landscape . . .”

—Alfred Russel Wallace, from The Malay Archipelago

 

One’s disappointment is perhaps the one constant,
because people are always going to Facebook
the best meals, the best views, the sunniest days.
We are mortals and our journey tends to drag on.
Mist is more magical in movies and books
than driving in meaningless patches of poor visibility.
There are more gasps of delight and horror
in any twenty pages of even the most realist literature
than you will hear in a year of genuine living.
Just don’t go expecting much. Even wildflowers—
the buttercups and heather, the bloody daffodils—
they don’t gather the way Wordsworth said they did.
Little clump here, clump there, and they don’t all
bloom at once, even the daffodils you’ve planted
in the front yard. These in early March,
those in late April. And when birds gather
around here, it’s generally to celebrate roadkill.
Snow does not always produce a feeling
of thrilled grandeur and Pascalian isolation;
it’s scraped into middens of slushy soot
along the street, that’s what catches your actual eye,
and it turns quickly crusty and lumpy and mud-patched
in the storied Vermont countryside. I lived there.
Stars don’t always twinkle, in fact they quite often
stare dully down, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed,
even on the clearest of nights. They are both less remote
(in a scientifically explicable way) and more remote
(in a damp cold-night way) than rapt gazers imply.
Love is never as instantaneous and continuously
blissful as the songs would have you believe;
even when it goes wrong the drama is less than
exciting; more a tedious nuisance, the effort
to move on, in fact that is what is truly continuous,
that’s what you can count on, the Sisyphean,
Oh god the relentlessly failing effort to leave
every last beloved behind.

J. Allyn Rosser’s fourth collection, Mimi’s Trapeze, appeared in 2014 from the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her work has been awarded the Morse Prize, the New Criterion Poetry Prize, and Poetry’s Bock and Wood prizes, and she has been the recipient of Lannan, Guggenheim, NEA, and Ohio Arts Council fellowships. She teaches at Ohio University, where she also edited the New Ohio Review for eight years.

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