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In x, Dan Chelotti conjures voices that wander, pause, analyze, articulate, attempt to enlighten, fail to enlighten, and then answer that failure with laughter. The wildly inventive imagery in these cinematic pieces lodges them somewhere between the surreal and the pure symbol, colorful and smooth like the lyrics of John Ashbery or Linda Pastan. In Chelotti’s poems, diamonds talk and sheriffs balance frogs on the tips of pens.

Today we offer three poems from the collection. To order x, please visit our store.

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I am looking out over
one of the first real gray
days of autumn listening
to a podcast in which
these two men are talking about
the phenomenon of ball lightning.
I love ball lightning because (still)
no photographic evidence exists.
It was because of ball lightning
that before everyone carried cameras
I carried a camera hoping
someone would ask me why
I was carrying a camera.
No one ever did, but now,
older, I am grateful to find
that my loneliness
accommodates my desire, and not,
as it used to be, vice versa.


The ice writes a memoir
on my window.
I heard the ice.
I remember particular
ice falling in 1996.
The kind of ice
that traps you.
And being trapped
at a friend’s house,
I drank fuzzy beer
until I puked off his deck,
my fingers slipping
from the railing. Then,
like now, I saw it coming
but couldn’t parse it.
That is the way with ice,
with foxes that walk
out of the forest
and cross the paths
I walk alone,
with rivers, rest stops,
and the smell of someone
I once knew passing
into a life that is not mine.
If I had a river
I would reach it with a stone.


I love the squeak
of a trash can
on wheels rolling
through the ether riddled
with the unwritten letters
of those waiting
for a flight from DC
to Boston. No one
listens to the president
on the cable news
because the cord
running from the flat
screen to the coffee-
stained wall reminds
everyone of their father,
how his breath dispersed
as he chopped a dying elm
in early autumn,
how his breath
dispersed the solid air.
Their screens won’t
help them, the music
in their ears will only
encourage the nostalgia
that rushes down
on them like a wind
from a mountain
they wouldn’t dare climb.
The president says
it is a question
of our humanity.
The janitor ignores
a wrapper—
a distant blast from a turbine
begins like a fax
from God.