Tag Archives: “In the Era of Collective Thought” by Gary Finke

The Year We Learned about Tet by Gary Finke

This morning, as if the past had unwrapped
Its greasy sack of regret, I am describing
How Cecil and I worked as punishment, how,
After we swept floors and hauled trash to give us
Humility we both needed, we were noisy with relief,
And yes, pride that we’d finished ten hours
For our case of petty, bad college behavior.
Because it was February, we’d worked
Something we called the “light shift,” returning
Our tools in near-dark and standing, for once,
Among men who worked each weekend at jobs
They’d never foreseen as boys, laborers
Who did what was necessary, the work
We wouldn’t be repeating, not if we
Used our brains to earn the future’s comfort.

Those men huddled inside cars they idled
Toward warmth, windshields clearing from the bottom
In rising moons.  From the back of campus,
It was sixteen blocks to where our friends were
Already lively with beer and music,
And whether it was the twilight cold or
The simple solidarity of work,
One car door opened as “Where to?” offer.
The two of us crowded beside that man
On a stiff bench seat, the heater full-blast
On our feet while Cecil gave directions
That stopped that driver early, spilling us
Into the just-beginning snow two blocks
From our Greek-lettered house, standing in front
Of the cheap apartments where locals lived
As if he wanted that maintenance man
To believe we were not the spoiled sons
Of distant fathers, able to manage discipline,
Gesturing in the flurries as if he was already
Enlisting, his war victim future so close he needed
To celebrate our small, unimportant work.

Gary Fincke’s latest collection, The Infinity Room, won the Wheelbarrow Books Prize for Established Poets (Michigan State, 2019). A collection of essays, The Darkness Call, won the Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Prose and was published by Pleiades Press in 2018.

 

In the Era of Collective Thought by Gary Fincke

From a hospital in Texas,
one hundred brains have vanished
and, as always, there are flurries
of posts suggesting suspects
from genius to sociopath.
Still unaccounted for, the brains
of the frequently concussed, those
in early dementia, those
whose last demand was suicide.
Tonight, after we lock our doors,
we speculate the thief lives
surrounded by so many brains
he cannot admit a guest.
That he must master home repair
or live among leaks and drafts
and dangerous wiring. All day,
we have seen nobody outside.
As if our isolation has been
perfected by the relentless work
of the brain-eating zombies
we are fond of discussing.
Cerebrum, cerebellum–
we recite our parts like beginners
in anatomy, counting down to
the constancy of medulla
while the underworld’s weather
loots the grid we rely upon.
Drought has master-minded
the overthrow of farming.
Rain is a hostage whose ransom
has been raised so high the sky
is unable to pay. Shut-ins,
we carry the memory of comfort
like a congenital hump.
Decisions made elsewhere are
hurtling toward us in rented trucks,
all of them explaining themselves
in a gibberish of slogans.

Gary Fincke’s latest collection, The Infinity Room, won the Wheelbarrow Books Prize for Established Poets (Michigan State, 2019). A collection of essays, The Darkness Call, won the Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Prose and was published by Pleiades Press in 2018.