Doug Ramspeck


        It is not down in any map; true places never are.
                                                                     Herman Melville

She was late arriving. First it was spouses
we discussed, children, jobs. Then curries
to order: Panang, Khao soi, sour. And finally
that distant summer in Escanaba: wraith mice
scratching walls, moonlight like chalk on a front
porch, long grass we rarely mowed . . . and
one lost evening when a cataract of smoke
drifted without warning across the yard. It clung
in air, suspended, gathering the way a train glides
past you in a dream, silent yet with great force,
as though a thing might be separate from
its powers. Come morning we followed a stream
bed etched into the earth, the way years etch
themselves into a body. Followed it to the abandoned
barn and stables down the road. The earth,
when we arrived, was charred black. Open hulls
of barn were foundering on the shoals,
ribs exposed, as though a sea had retreated
and vanished. Then the meal was over
and we stood. Cars shouldered their way down
the narrow street. Above, an oatmeal sky
churned at its center the way years roll out
of themselves, capacious and illusory.

Doug Ramspeck

is the author of four poetry collections. His most recent book, Mechanical Fireflies (2011), received the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize. His first book, Black Tupelo Country (2008), received the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry. His poems have appeared in Slate, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, AGNI, and Prairie Schooner.