Poetry: Gabriel Kruis

Selected by Hoa Nguyen as a finalist for the 2018 Omnidawn Revealed Identity Poetry Book Prize

Anonymous Connecticut Valley           (7/10/2019)

I’m watching my wife’s mother’s partner’s sister’s husband, John,
make a watercolor of this anonymous Connecticut valley, 
though really his back is to me, and all I can see are the deliberate
movements of his elbow, can only imagine the action his brush
has taken: the lush way the river we can’t see conceals itself 
in the river-fattened trees; how its cabbage impasto frames 
that swatch of scalloped farmland, tilled and lined, like over-dyed 
buttercream on a grocery store sheetcake, poorly applied. 
And I keep shouting out directions to him, reminding him 
to capture the clouds that are gathering like ornate tombstones
above our heads. To take his time with the complicated interlacing 
of the chainlink fence, and not to forget its attendant plaque, mounted
in memoria to the boy who fell to his death from this most minor
of heights in 1963. Not pictured: David Berman has died,
and Emily is perched nearby on a rock, reading for the first time
poems from “Actual Air.” Under a bower of dark leaves, 
a woman is murmuring mellifluously in Chinese to her stately 
golden collie, as her husband flies a drone out over the valley, 
and a man who looks famous for being bland— a cinematic dad 
or centrist politician— wanders over, to look over his shoulder. 
Times like these I have to ask myself, “How did we get here?” 
when even our route through these New England hamlets belies 
nothing; its lack of disguise, a kind of disguise: taking Pomperaug 
Rd. along Settler’s Park and the Pomperaug Golf Course; following 
Heritage as it turns into Poverty and rambles on through this 
Colonial Candy Land to Washington, CT, where I’ve been told 
Meryl Streep has a home. A modernest pied-à-terre, I imagine it 
built to blend into its surroundings, with an infinity pool as calm 
as her voice, as placid as that frank, signature half-smile. 
When he’s finished, John stands, turns, and, clutching his chest, 
says, in his wry North English accent, “My tits are damp;” 
and of the landscape remarks, “Its mostly green anyway, so 
its hard to fuck up.” This is our joke about the world, how easy 
it is to render; as if it were that plain, in all its relations, 
uncomplicated. As if the brindled shadows of the clouds— 
intermittent and pewter blue— were immaterial, requiring only 
a stroke of the brush; as if the hawk taking wing to share the sky 
with the drone, is not by degrees becoming clearer as she tilts 
toward us, growing less and less obscure, as she draws nearer.

Gabriel Kruis reading: Anonymous Connecticut Valley (7/10/2019)

Gabriel Kruis is a New Mexican poet and educator living and writing in Brooklyn. His work has been published or is forthcoming on the PEN America Poetry Series, A Perfect Vacuum, The Brooklyn Rail, Atlas Review, Frontier Poetry, Southword, and Poor Claudia, among others. He is a cofounder of Wendy’s Subway and was a 2018-2019 fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown.