The stool on which I sit is crooked,
leaning left, making the room slope
like a ship sailing the North Sea
in winter when there’s only ice,
no land or sky or shore. Someone
made this stool and made it crooked.
He might’ve been an ex-soldier, half-blind,
missing his left leg from the kneecap.
Sometimes in the early morning when snow
flows in the streetlight out the window
he might feel it, the heat of the Marine-brand
he earned and lost down a Mosul side street
in April 2008. The day was clear and green.
When the professor gives his lecture on
constant creation, the guy to my right
leans over and stage-whispers “Bullshit.”
He wears a flat-billed ball cap; his tank top
exposes a tricolored eagle tattooed across
one bicep, a fiery skull on the other. He shakes,
he smells of tobacco and copper. I see
the professor’s eyes flicker, but he continues
on Descartes. The guy to my right returns
to his cell phone. Thousands of miles away
the sun dips below the Pacific horizon.
I stare at the flame of a candle
rising motionless from the wick. From
the window a drum roll of rain roams in.
Beyond, the clouds don’t break. I watch
as the fire descends through the wax,
and the wax flows down the column
of the candle. It drowns the charred match
strewn across its base. The tempo of rain
slows in a cool ritardando, but the candle
still burns. Light too falters until only
the candle shines. I’m asleep when it dies
in a dampened hush. I dream of the desert.
Jack Freeman is an undergraduate student studying history and creative writing at Wichita State University after spending a year abroad. His poems have appeared in Mikrokosmos, Off the Coast, and Old Red Kimono, and he has a poem forthcoming in New Welsh Review.