True North Summer Spotlight

Editor’s Note: Beers on the dock, a midnight swim, losing track of time—what does summer evoke (& invoke) in northern New England? We’ve invited NNER contributors to share seasonal True North interpretations in this exclusive content spotlight. “Leaning Out With a Cigarette” by David Troupes is an aching ode with surprising lineation and masterfully subtle musicality. We appreciate the menacing shadows stirring the salt air of this piece. —NNER Vol 39 Editors, Franklin Pierce University

Leaning Out With a Cigarette

by David Troupes

The osprey must have seen me: lifting low

to the platform among the reeds,

breast of sea, dignified,

reckless of its dignity.

A gull passes, poisoned, baited at the dump

and sent home dying.

The men

who loved me

are piling up out front. My hair washed, evening

blowing through the hoist cranes of the harbor,

insects slapping in the blue death-boxes, dying,

and all the grief of my day changing

the way sunlight will flip the reeds,

a sudden slowness—

brain-breath and readiness of the cigarette,

the blue tarp pinned by firewood,

trying to stand.

There she is, touching

upon the straw, bringing a fish to her child.

And what does she make of the cell mast

and what does she make of the harbor lights

and what does she make of her bone-memory:

the shot,

the shooter: but she flies

and hunts and works

toward forgiveness of a kind.

Another, then. “Next.” My match tip

star-pricked in the wind. And as I step

down from the house I see

past his shoulders, past his car, past all

the promenade colors of the sky

to the straw of this permanent world,

the stinking channels—this lipstick,

this Friday game, this kite flown—and I walk out

among the poisons, among the radio-wind,

the reeds and rolling swallows, trapped

in this corrosive freedom,

my corroding health

and the memory of tearing

bread for my children.


David Troupes has published two collections of poetry, Parsimony (2009) and The Simple Men (2012), and his work has appeared many journals on both sides of the Atlantic, including Hayden’s Ferry Review, Fugue, Nimrod, PN Review, Poetry Wales and Carcanet’s 2015 anthology New Poetries VI. He has recently completed a PhD at the University of Sheffield, and a Jerwood Opera Writing Fellowship in collaboration with composer Joel Rust.