Audio Poem: “Gyre”

Year written: 2005
Collection: The Loosing of Clocks
I consider “Gyre” to be one of my best poetic accomplishments, even though, going back and reading it now I can see it’s got some pretty big flaws. It’s clunky, it tries too hard, its agenda is showing, there are way too many words in it, etc etc. But at the same time, I can still see it’s attributes. It summed up a complicated theme I’d been writing about for a few years, throughout The Loosing of Clocks and the two previous collections, and the theme was place, specifically, what does it mean to exist in a certain spatial place? What connection do I, in reality, have to this house, this room, this city park? I was damn near obsessed with it, and in “Gyre”, I feel as though I finally expressed it, even though I had to maybe get a little clunky to get there. I still really like the curve balls I throw at the end: the juxtapositions which beg more questions still; if I am the thief of past tenant’s bedrooms, is my sister the thief of my mother’s nose? Finally, by asking insistently, in this poem and others, what time means to places, I’m really asking from an angled perspective what time means to me.
 Click the gray arrow to hear the audio version.




The laundromat which I frequent—
which I drive my car two blocks to get to,
but in the summer, who knows,
maybe I’ll pick up my laundry baskets
and detergents and walk there—
is the same laundromat which my sister,
years ago, when she lived around here,
washed her clothes at.
As I lean against the soda machine,
at the back of the place,
I can picture her very clearly
walking through the front door—
an armload of thisandthats almost sliding
out of her grip, she walks to a machine
and relievedly sits everything down.
She is so perfectly pictured in my mind
I blink my eyes to make sure she isn’t there;
she isn’t.
Her long, straight blond hair isn’t here,
nor are her precisely chosen clothes
or the nose of our mother which sits on her face.
She had been here, though, in this very building,
on occasions previous;
it is this realization which strikes me so viciously hard
that causes me to stumble into the plastic chair
snuggling the soda machine. I cannot stand up.
Did she ever use this soda machine?
It’s impossible;
maybe she even (oh god could it be?)
sat in this chair waiting for a cycle to be finished
or paged through the same years-old magazines
on the brown shelves by the big glass windows.
The floodgates are open: who else has been here?
What other folks from my life invaded this drab cornerless
business to dispatch of their dirty things?
My uncles? But I barely know them;
surely they couldn’t have been here
doing what I’m doing—solely I am doing it.
My old schoolteachers
who had neither private lives nor private parts,
what would happen if they used this laundromat?
Surely the world would collapse;
certainly I would not be permitted to be here;
I would instantly be laden with quarters.
Immediately I grasp what has plagued me
for the decades I have been alive:
too many things are able to exist
within finite space;
exponential lives have been squeezed
into the places which make up my own life,
which I had previously considered boundless.
Scared out of my mind,
I spring from the chair and walk hurriedly
out the door which my sister entered
five minutes ago,
five years ago,
and I lumber into the stinging cold.
The wind now brings not only faint hints of death,
but also a series of haunting images:
depression-era men in tall hats
strolling down the sidewalk;
stoned teenagers in tie-dyed shirts
doing Chinese Fire Drills by the stop sign;
a married couple, some year distant and future,
sleeping soundly in my bedroom;
my mother’s nose
on my sister’s face.


9 Responses to “Audio Poem: “Gyre””

  1. I think similar thoughts sometimes when I see an old photograph, say something like a picture of a group of Union soldiers from the civil war. All young and scrappy and full of piss and vinegar. They were here – in the same area I now tread, and now they are all gone. So fleeting was their time here. But also, oh so powerful.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Yes!!! That sort of thing really gets at me. It didn’t seem like the past to them, at the time. Very heady stuff.

  2. Yeah I def dig this

  3. Wow, you hit the nail on the head here, at least in the sense of conveying how odd it is that a place exists not only stagnately in space, but also fluidly in time, and it can be difficult to reconcile the two ideas.

    As far as general readability goes, i think this poem is better than you think it is. Sure, there are a few awkward spots, but they kind of fit with the theme. The way you sort of get smacked around by realization and stumble into the concept; to speak too smoothly about these things would detract from the overall feel. IMHO, this is pretty damn good work.

    P.S.- If that’s not what you were going for, then it’s a victory all the more.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Why thank you, Kiwi!!! It makes me very happy that you “get” this one. From what you said, you are reading it exactly as I intended, which is very gratifying!

      It is this part where I *explain* things that I have always disliked:

      Immediately I grasp what has plagued me
      for the decades I have been alive:
      too many things are able to exist
      within finite space;
      exponential lives have been squeezed
      into the places which make up my own life,
      which I had previously considered boundless.

      It just seems so…unnecessary. And yet I have never been able to find a way to take it out without the whole thing falling apart! Oh well…if you like it, then the Muse is happy :)

  4. Hmm, I see what you mean. I think it’s the last two lines that muddy the waters… Although, I just went back and read it through, deliberately skipping that part, and I think it’s definitely necessary to get the point across.

    On a side note, don’t you just love the infinite struggle of trying to create and perfect your art? It’s one of my favorite things in the whole world, truly a labor of love.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Yeah those few lines are problematic…it might boil down to the word “boundless”, which is pretty clearly the wrong word, but boy does it sound nice!!!! haha. Yes, I may have to change that one. I love AND hate the struggle, kiwi! Sometimes I wish everything would just be perfect right away haha

  5. I love when you refer to me as your muse!

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