This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features three poems by Lindsay Turner. 

October Song

It was decided. 
It was being decided.
It had been decided in advance.

It had been decided in advance.
It was October, so the black birds
flew across the light blue sky.

It was being decided. 
The sky rang and rang.
Speculation, spinning like a coin.

It had been decided. A conversation
at the last table in the restaurant,
so it felt intimate and warm.

It was decided. Last month’s receipts.
The sky opened and swallowed a girl.
It had been decided in advance,

although I had decided nothing.
A handful of birds opened
like speculation out of the tree.

It was being decided. It was meant
to be eerie. Nothing had permission
to decide. It was being decided.

It had been decided. The leftovers
of last month, quiet in a corner.
It rang out and it was decided.

It had been eerie. I danced around
and around him and liked it. 
Spinning like a coin. It was decided.

It was decided. At the last table,
speculation rose like thought bubbles,
permission to be intimate and warm.

I woke up and drank a glass of water.
Like speculation out of a tree,
it had been decided in advance.

November Song

The birds like they’re going down into a hole
The track runs along beside the track
The water looks like white paint on the tracks
The birds making shapes that make us scared

In the back garden it began to darken
She explained what made the wine called sacred
Mist coming visibly over the cliff involves chance and so is sacred
In the back garden a white squirrel went along the wall

It must be true because multiple cultures have it
The days of the year the air is thinner
The days the colors on the sky are thinner
It must be true because that’s how you have to mix it

Secretly I thought it must be painted on
The festivities made up of bones made up of paint
The surface of the leaves loaded with paint
Secretly I thought it might be better

Some of the others took their late holidays
and went out to the curling and delicate coast
The undertones are different on the delicate coast
Some of the others knew how to write about it

In the city there was costume and parade etc.
We didn’t know whether the city was like a heart or a head or not
We didn’t know whether we’d be happy there or not
In the city there was a lot to look at on the ground

There was some confusion about the calendar
Together in a darkened apartment for years
I’d been confusing adjacent holidays for years
There was some confusion about what might be good for everyone

We traveled there and back but we didn’t make any decisions
The light like it had splashed against the sky
The branches had come in black from beyond the sky
We traveled to where the angles were crazy

Either way they said it might be touch and go
It’s stupid how you keep noticing it’s broken
That’s how you know that politics are broken
Either way someone has to pick up shards

There Wasn’t a Song

when I left the building
everyone was taking pictures of the sky
the bells were ringing
there wasn’t a song

there wasn’t a story
there wasn’t anyone left standing there
it couldn’t have happened
it doesn’t exist

the scene was too improbable
there wasn’t a table
there’s no glass on the table
it doesn’t exist

there wasn’t a reason
for the representatives to have been crying
there wasn’t anything to cry about
they couldn’t have cried

I walked up to the building with columns
through it and out the other side
there wasn’t any confrontation
it didn’t exist

besides the weather
what is there to talk about
if there’s no point in telling it
does it still exist

the person I love
has a yellow spot in his eye
if he closes that eye several states away
does it still exist

the bells were ringing
when I left the building
this time that they’re saying
it doesn’t exist



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).