Contributor’s Note
by Roger Mitchell

It wasn’t the poems I turned to first
but the notes in back, the pressed tissues
of a life. What was it poets did
besides write poems? The poems looked fine 
spread out on clean white sheets, Olympias 
in full stare, Odalisques, their eyes lowered. 
The ex-fisherman from Nova Scotia
wrote grainy poems with full imprecision.
I imagined thick mist and cods swaddling.
Another got her poem taken 
by swimming the English Channel. At night.
It crawled across the page in long, sure strokes.
I tried posing in front of the mirror,
also at night, naked in fact. But, no.
It wasn’t English Channelly enough.
I took up boxing, tried being fetching—
“Drove a Duck up the Alcan Highway drunk,”
“Once made a pass at the Duchess of York.”
The editor, though, said he knew the Duchess,
her butler I think, told me my poem stank.
So I stamped my passport harder. “Rafted the Nile.”
“Opened the door once for Melina Mercouri,
who taught me that dance, the one where you step
sideways and stop, then step the same way back,
arms over shoulders, the bouzouki in tears.”
I never went back to the front matter
where the pale lemons lay in studied space,
where the poet sought so hard to minimize
his garish adventures, jobs in Djibouti,
hikes across central Asia, Gobian
hallucinations. The original
fantasy, the setup, the platform,
was better than any rocket it launched,
the place where the poems were born,
inventing a life you’d live if you could.
“Published his first poems at twelve.” “Sat in
after hours with Monk at the Blue Note.” “Wept
to see Kennedy die, over and over
in reruns, King have a dream he’d never live
to see, the rest of us never as well.”
That’s what I call a little bit of hell
that you and I are living through. I wish
us well. I always will. But “Jesus,”
as my grandfather said in tight places,
as we waited to hear what miracle now
Jesus was asked for. But he never said.

Roger Mitchell is the author of 12 books of poetry, most recently Reason’s Dream (2018) and The One Good Bite in the Saw-Grass Plant (2010), poems written in The Everglades while on an AIRIE Fellowship. New work can be found in Stand, Tar River Poetry, Blueline, Poetry East and other journals. He has recently published Their Own Society: Prose on Poetry, a collection of his reviews and essays. His biography of the poet Jean Garrigue is making the rounds among publishers. He lives in Jay, New York, with his wife, the fiction writer, Dorian Gossy.

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