Troy Jollimore

Landscape with Ambiguous Symbols

That sound that sometimes enters the world
as thunder, at others as the boisterous crashing
of waves. That rustling in the bushes

that designates either the wind or the twitching
of unseen lurkers. That smile from the bride
at the altar, expressing nothing or else

confessing I wish it were not him but you.
That siren’s wail telling you this is a test,
this is only a test, if it isn’t screaming

you and everyone here are about
to die an unpleasant and very newsworthy
. That kiss that translates as your life

has just ended but possibly means your life
is only beginning. That buzzing that says
that you’re getting old and your hearing is going,

unless, of course, a swarm of bees
is nearby. That look from a beautiful stranger
that means keep your distance or maybe it means

come closer, I get off at eight, I have
a room on the third floor, here is the key
That little red splotch on the skin that signifies

nothing at all, unless it’s a sign
that you should perhaps get it checked, though of course
it’s already so late that getting it checked

will not save you. That sweet post-sunset moment
of melancholy that’s there to remind you
that this life, your only life, is not really

yours, that you have assumed it like
a disguise, that you should have done what you really
wanted to do—trained as a chef,

a guitarist, traveled the world as a broke
and itinerant vagabond—and means,
as well, that on such evenings any

existence you might have pursued would have felt
like something assigned or stolen, that time flows
in one direction only, that now

it takes three drinks to make the music
sound the way it’s supposed to sound,
that the taste of the air on late summer evenings

is always a little bit bitter, always
a little bit tinged with regret, that this is
your language, your city, and no one but you

can speak it, and no one but you can save it.