Corey Van Landingham

For Mike

“It’s so beautiful,” you told us when you could talk again. Pure sound. Balloon-like, the middle rising. Name, nearly, of some precocious girl in Eugene, or mute Greek goddess. Its origins, though, aren’t all disorder– something of the ineffable, what slips the tongue in wonder. That which can’t be said. I had been searching for a happier way to write of love. Impossible! All happy families… All happy poems. “Happy” isn’t what anyone would call you, Mike, except maybe as an office joke. I know, now, you like to watch others approach it. At the Sidney Dairy Barn, the late-summer cornfields inescapable, you wanted us so badly to be content with our chosen fruit flavors. The lemon some bright home. Driving us the long way back, past the farm, past the lone, spotted horse, past your late wife’s favorite church, you said you could have watched her pray inside forever. I have finally come to see how I have relied all my life on the fictions of long Russian novels and insufferable grainy films for models of pairing. That I desired extensive evening speeches affirming a great beauty I hadn’t yet lost, somber soliloquies of worship, words as proof. Yesterday I sensed the room shift. Had the streetlamps flickered on? Another lightning bug caught in our antique lamp? No, Chris was looking at me, from across the room, while I read. “What?” I asked. What was it? He shook his head, smiled. I couldn’t say.

Corey Van Landingham is the author of Antidote and Love Letter to Who Owns the Heavens, forthcoming from Tupelo Press. She is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Illinois.