Shifting, Too Anxious to Be Fully Aware
by Jonathan Yungkans
after John Ashbery
What could I say of a young Polish woman that January?
I was barely a year into college, on my first time abroad,
felt out of my depth. She worked the hotel dining room,
met me for coffee to practice English. My words faltered.
What could I say about watching London snow, first time
in 33 years, orange juice cartons cooling on a window sill,
drivers skidding white roads gray? Not about the Jameson’s
I downed in Windsor—the morning a chilled side of beef,
and me feeling hung on a freezer hook. After it, I reeled
a good part of the afternoon but stayed warm. Didn’t tell
a soul about Stratford-upon-Avon, where two Bobbies
tailed me—streets empty, shop windows dark, me feeling
the bottle of red wine drunk with dinner and deathly afraid
of a tourist trip of jail. Didn’t mention the trip to Wales—
hung over, I yearned for a deluge long as five summers
to wash Wordsworth and Tintern Abbey down a mountain
brook. As if nouns were stones, torn from cathedral walls
to drop and envelop me—a collapse followed by stillness.
Previously published in Panoply, a Literary Zine
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In 1980, I traveled to Britain as part of an undergraduate group. The poem is a series of highlights, rather than about a specific place—the travelogue of a stranger trying to make heads or tails of himself in a strange land.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Yungkans is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer with an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. His work has appeared in San Pedro Poetry Review, Synkroniciti, West Texas Literary Review, and other publications. His second poetry chapbook, Beneath a Glazed Shimmer, won the 2019 Clockwise Chapbook Prize and is slated for release by Tebot Bach Publishing in 2020.