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Excerpt: 'Vacationland'

Cover image from <i>Vacationland</i>
Cover image from Vacationland

This book of poetry involves many of the same characters as the author's book of short stories. Recommended by Lucia Silva of Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, Calif., the poems have the same driving force and the same themes of snow and coldness as the stories. More abstract than the stories, the poems read like little aural slices of them.


This place, this bearer of the chilly winter burst,

the white-out everywhere and flurry,

the not-in-the-terms-of-Dairy-Queen,

this blizzard with a lowercase b,

far from commercial in its constancy,

its threat, impact, and our recovery:

always from it. We are always re-shoveling

out the driveways and panking down the snow

or breaking up the ice with handmade iron spears

or spokes wrested from bikes that have succumbed

at last to rust. This is my vacationland, my very own

Misery Bay, my dredge, my lighthouses, my vanishing

animal tracks in snow. Everyone who is not from here

is not from here, and that is all there is to say.

Everyone from here is still from here

regardless of where they are or where they end.

White light filtering through snow like dust.

There is always light coming down

like a donation from Goda little perk

to get us through the winter upon us.

This light lights up our faces, lights up the faces

of the frozen dead as seen on TV from Canada.

This vacationland, this motel open year-round,

is now a Best Western and that is good, I guess.

This vacationland, this Michigan,

my Michigan, is no destination, no getaway

for us, those who are always from.

We have no destinations. We have no way

to get away from her, from here, to get away

from romantic winter getaways and those

who’ve come to get away from dull bombs of city lives.

We cannot get away from from and from the doldrum

winter silent burn. We might as well be stone agates,

mottled trifles, appearing periodically on the beach

to be taken home, to be put with other pretty rocks

and bits of lake glass in jars. We are meant for your mantel

and for the light that will find us there.

We might as well be the kind of rock

that passes for rock on the radio up here,

meaning Foreigner and Journey and nothing

that could be ever meaningful again

because it has been subsumed by soft-rock

crap-rock, classic-rock, by radio, by frequency modulated

energy in air, by the tyranny

of awful playlists and s***ty DJs

and no hope of getting a decent song

played for us to be indifferent to at prom.

We are what is left. We are drift.

I guess this is a sort of manifesto.

From the book Vacationland by Ander Monson. Copyright (C) 2005 by Ander Monson. Reprinted by permission of Tupelo Press. All rights reserved.

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Ander Monson