My View from Here by Adam Vines

          – Yves Tanguy’s Les Vues
Like a man running away
from his tumor (legs fuzzy
with speed) skull contorting
to the cancer’s protean form—
a bicuspid pliered from the roots,
enamel gone, dentin starting to slouch
like pudding—stages 2, 3
lurking on the desert floor
below him, stage 4
suspended behind him
like a vodka bottle
barked with decades of wax.

Like the cowboy last night
at the hotel bar who had
already drunk his way through
the top-shelf whiskey,
who asked if I fished
before I had slid halfway
onto the barstool,
like his unfettered cough
of a confession that these
were the first drinks
he had knocked back
in eight years,
like the biopsy results
he received earlier that day,
the hospital bed and gown
he refused, the surgery,
radiation, chemo (lab rat shit)
he won’t do, like the three
phone calls from MD Anderson,
his ring tone set to the Jaws theme,
while he talked about native cutthroat
and his girlfriend sat motionless,
her eyes full of agency at first
then dropped to the overwrought
fried green tomatoes
she wouldn’t touch.

Like my best friend
and fishing buddy of forty years
in his last hour of gurgling,
his final movements trying
to wipe away his piss as if some
primitive reflex awakened by dignity.

Like a bass lumbering in deep water
at his pond during winter,
like his patience, twitching a jig
all day in hope of one big bite.

Like the glioblastoma the cowboy
and my best friend shared, the food
they could no longer taste, the splinters
in their necks, the names
of their children lost in pill bottles,
like the ME I see now
in Les Vues, the grey smudge
and outline of something
that they never catch up to
no matter how fast they run,
no matter how long I wait for them.
Adam Vines is an assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is Editor of Birmingham Poetry Review and Director of the English Honors Program. He has published recent poems in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Hopkins Review, Measure, and Subtropics, among others. He is the author of Out of Speech (forthcoming, LSU Press, 2018) and The Coal Life (U of Arkansas P, 2012), and he is coauthor of According to Discretion (Unicorn Press, 2015). During the summers, he is on staff at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.