:: Article

Assinaros & other poems

By Aaron Evan Baker.


To stand aside,
To be left alone,
To live unnoticed–
All now too much.

A terrible simplifier comes.

To live—
Too much.

A terrible simplifier.

You speak
and stumble in the toils of speech.
Too much–
Now hear the predetermined answer.

Don’t you see?
The summoner never stops
and none return.

You thought this bitterness had passed.
This bitterness will never pass.

and another,
and another comes.


My composition book soft-covered pink like salmon flesh
and fat with words
A picture of a forest so for me Primeval Wood
infused with dragonflies and dinosaurs
The fresh-book reek
stays and will stay.

Two black boys stop me on the way to school
Look at this hunky one says and the other stepping up behind
yeah look at this hunky fucka look
I flinch
and flinch today.

Arms pale and hair Dutch-boy and brown
Laughter at others’ laughter and a quick twist
her bottom pivoting just so
As motion perfect
but she walks away
Always she walks away.


Once, beaten men came to the river
To stage a fitting dénouement.
Some may have prayed: “Hide us oh Lord”;
Some may have begged sweet drink
As needful children beg their mother;
Some may have blessed the kindly river,
Savior from thirst and feathered death,
As they went with their armor to the mud.

Students who heard that tragedy
Beside what may have been the river,
Conjectured what the author meant:
Guessed empire condignly punished,
Guessed no rebuke (all rule who can),
Or shelved grand themes and marked
A warning, so, should bad day come,
They’d stand clear while others drowned.

Sun for no reason danced with the river:
White fire, brown fire, blue;
A bird called, and a fat fly buzzed,
Suiting their purposes.

Such beauty and indifference mastered me
Till, falling out with artifice,
I longed to scour the floodscape clean.

I said:
We stand by a Sicilian river,
No brown god or slaking savior,
No tributary of our musings,
No end ordained by durant prose,
But a mute given, where men broke.

The bluff pronouncement almost worked:

I thought I looked on naked nature;
But I could not pin down the river.
Like metals moving,
Facets of the flood-face wink and dash;
A bird cries;
Flies mob some ordure on the bank.
Men came and prayed, and a mud-slurred voice
Avows in full the tragedy.

Aaron Evan Baker was born in Chicago, Illinois. He studied Ancient History at the University of Chicago, and has a Ph.D. in Classics from Brown University. He is an attorney (J.D. Northwestern) and college teacher, and lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife, Stephanie, and their daughter, Laura.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, December 21st, 2013.