Subdued Ochre

The more I began to look like a terrier, or some kind of small dog, anyway, the more I began to feel, to act, like one. My beard, for one, came to a point, much like it itself had something to say, and I liked this. So did those around me then. 

When I walked for the first time into the office she was reading Foucault on the couch, with her shoes on and set upon the chair’s arm. 

I said: “Nobody reads Foucault without a pen in hand, in fact it’s otherwise not really reading Foucault.” 

“I do have a pen in hand,” she said. 

“That’s why I said that.” 

In those years the office was much like a hostel, or at least what we think a hostel is. Friends, stimulants, students, lovers, all left and arrived, and we shared these a great deal. Sam brought in the water boiler, Amira the teas of their neighbor when their neighbor died. 

The office was at once collegial and rather provocative, which we intended of course. On solstices, equinoxes, and Canadian holidays we gathered always at night to drink local wine and generally exotic small dishes, which we kept secret until we shared them. 

“I thought you didn’t like Foucault.” 

“I don’t,” I said. “He’s a dick and impossible to read and he does exactly as he criticizes and I hate this.” 

On group trips, which included those more established people, we mostly rode together and I still so clearly recall grasping at the language like a child, no a small dog, always just outside the currents of practically any conversation, excepting ones of food, and yet, from my undelegated promontory, reveling in a sort of unprovoked position of comic release. Their long sentences that wound like sonnets were punctured I imagined by my staccato advances, my stucco, stuck to their exchange and gave rise always to a self-consciousness and an assured avoidance of anyone taking us too seriously. 

After the Christmas party he and I sat at the train station waiting for his train, upon which I would walk home. The few platforms of the station were hardly populated and we took the opportunity to talk more generally and less guardedly about the program. He said it was good for him but more difficult than what he was used to, more independent and less, he said, fuzzy. 

For some time there was an urgency to attempt developing something. We were on the end of a million million lines that led to some meaningful difference, which we cared for, like a collective child passed, from one of us to one of us, clung to and watched with a shaky reverence that we all plainly knew we could never afford. 

Being something is giving and hurting always, like bones grown too big for some small body, too much for anyone to stop and not enough for anyone to notice. 

The train arrived and we laughed that it was only eight. 

“I can wear a million different scarves,” she said, “and I say I could never get tired of this.” 

It was beautiful. It was warm, thus practical, and the frilly things, which she’d just learned how to do, were both trendy and at once nodding, almost waving, at what had just been in. 

Subdued ochre. Ghastly flatland.

ANDREW WILDERMUTH studies North American studies in Jena, Germany, where he is part of the Ecocriticism Research Collective and Modell Romantik. His poems have recently appeared in Columbia Journal, EcoTheo Review, and Cold Mountain Review.