What You Make

POETRY

By JENNIFER WHEELOCK

Across the room, you
are a bowerbird, building
a nest from junk we hauled
from the roadside: warped wood,
dented metal, a painted canvas ditched
like an embarrassing memory.

From these you make art.

“Assemblages” you say,
and each time I think
of insect bodies pinned to paper.
Bridges. Also: arms of mannequins,
large gatherings of politicians,
marriage, pipes, trains, manufacturing
plants, the factory worker who attaches
one knob in one way to one part
hour after day after week
with the rhythm of a mechanical elf
in a Christmas display. And buildings.
The shed my father assembled
in our backyard, a place to keep
his tools and Mason jars of liquor.

I arrive at this: What you make
are lean-tos, shelters for a rude
world. Supports for discarded
dreams. Living rooms for things left
to die, like letters from a battered board game
on a thrift store shelf. You pull them down
into words. Fly. Sing. Fish. Home.

Jennifer Wheelock is a writer and painter who lives in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

Editor’s Note: This poem was a finalist in the 2009 New Southerner Literary Contest.


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