John Casteen

Further Affiant Sayeth Naught

In the cold and sun-shot heart of February, North wind

bearing down hard like a hand on a blunt knife’s back:

Here, here’s how the narrative can’t read.  One year,


short of work, I took to the woods.  A man of enthusiasms,

they say, and mines were there.  As if I could hunt

my way out of my life.  Each day saw deer and turkey,


killed not a one.  Killed nothing but time that fall,

kept it realer than real, darkened no doorways

of fluorescing rooms whose clocks all read ten ten.


Boiled snow from the high country for water.  Slept

under blankets of stars.  Skin got waxy, masklike.  Ornery.

Kept saying silent to myself how this shouldn’t hurt


as much as it does, this palsied winter light that quakes

among the bur oaks’ leaves.  Regret is a forbidding wood,

remorse an open field, unsheltered; here, wind treats you


like a short cut.  When push comes to shove, you push back.

And the gibbous moon hung low above the reservoir,

skating on its thin, thin ice: All is forgiven, I want it to say.