By Justin Hamm

admit it brother

we are hopeless

when we start down this river

and what begins as a simple

thought experiment—

can we get inside the mind of miles davis

on smack?—

devolves into this soul diving

once more. but don’t lie to me:

you too take some comfort in believing

we will one day stand on the far end

of everything now centered

in our field of vision

will stand at a point in time

when the wind’s only concern

is to blow as wind ought to blow

and a mystery’s lone obligation

is to remain unsolved against

all of this endless faux solving

and we will see from this new vantage

i’d wager

and i’d wager you’d wager

how little even the most notorious events matter

how little benedict arnold’s betrayal matters

as an example

to benedict arnold

or general washington

in their present state of being.

it is of course quite difficult

after the exhilaration of said epiphany

to take such matters as paperwork

with any real seriousness

and so this river carries us straight into the heart

of the progressive movement

amendments fifteen through nineteen

and all of that jazz

where we don’t stay for long

for who can linger long in any era

when there are so many

questions to answer:

is delacroix the master of color application

or did stan musial happen maybe

for all of his perfections

to get out on his front foot

a little too much on his swing?

we both know this world is so expansive

with its past and its future

stretched out on either side

like wings of unfathomable breadth

and you—as i— have always been

keenly aware of personal limitations

know for instance that we have

never dealt with cameras or compounds

with any real success

and would both have struck out

on three consecutive pitches

with florence nightingale

getting back to our point

i suppose it must have been

for miles

the equivalent of peering

through a kaleidoscope

a great lot of fun

for a little while

but nothing he would want

to become his permanent


but what better time to bring ourselves

to terms with these tiny truths

nagging like hangnails

on every finger

than at the moment when

we have begun to debate

whether darwin was likely

to have had many close

or enduring friends

and why kant never married

like everyone else

we move from this to that

just waiting for the next

great moment to decide

it wants to happen

wait for it to say to us

‘we’re going somewhere come

join us we’re going somewhere

why don’t you come along’

but as for me friend

i’m beginning to believe

we might look a bit foolish

just standing around and waiting


Originally from the flatlands of central Illinois, Justin Hamm now lives and writes in Missouri. He earned his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of publications, including Cream City Review, New York Quarterly, Spoon River Poetry Review, Red Rock Review, and The Brooklyn Review. He recently completed his first collection of poems, Illinois, My Apologies, for which he’s currently seeking a publisher.

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