Mrs. Potter

Mrs. Potter

Hello, Mrs. Potter:

I am writing you this letter

for your son lay dead at six o’clock this morning.

Hung there by his belt strap in a ring of his own suitcases,

he was packed well for the journey, I assure you.

There’s no sense in sending flowers; there’s no forwarding address,

but you’ll remember him in your prayers, I imagine.

Me, I’m out here on the highway,

my truck is cold by mid-day,

I have tried to fix the heater but it’s not warming.

Sometimes I think I see him

in the small hours of the morning —

the snow it’s almost blinding —

just floating on the shoulder.

 

In my experience

you can sleep

don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you dream

 

Tell me, Mrs. Potter, was he far out when he left you?

Did you think to check his van or in his bureau?

Did he try to give you warnings?

Were his ways unto you cryptic? Make you want to hire a detective? And, well, did you?

Did that psychiatrist you visit ever tell you the one about walls?

How to climb them to look over? How to listen at them for whispers?

 

In my experience

you can sleep

don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you dream

don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you dream

 

So, I’ve told you, Mrs. Potter:

locked inside him was a clown;

locked inside him was an actor or a stunt man.

But he was a fall guy for the warehouse back room,

fall guy for the vodka,

a fall guy for the parking-lot shopping-cart collections.

Me, I’m hauling on the highway,

my truck is cold by mid-day,

I have tried to fix the heater but it’s not warming.

 

In my experience

you can sleep

don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you dream

In my experience

you can sleep

but don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you dream

don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you dream

don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you dream

don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you dream

 

(Life Underwater Music, 2001)

 

James O'Brien