April 1, 2021 Poets on Couches Poets on Couches: Cheswayo Mphanza Reads Gerald Stern By Cheswayo Mphanza National Poetry Month has arrived, and with it a second series of Poets on Couches. In these videograms, poets read and discuss the poems that are helping them through these strange times—broadcasting straight from their couches to yours. These readings bring intimacy into our spaces of isolation, both through the affinity of poetry and through the warmth of being able to speak to each other across the distances. “Leaving Another Kingdom” by Gerald Stern Issue no. 90 (Winter 1983) I think this year I’ll wait for the white lilacs before I get too sad. I’ll let the daffodils go, flower by flower, and the blue squill go, and the primroses. Levine will be here by then, waving fountain pens, carrying rolled-up posters of Ike Williams and King Levinsky. He will be reaching into his breast pocket for maps of grim Toledo showing the downtown grilles and the bus stations. He and I together will get on our hands and knees on the warm ground in the muddy roses under the thorn tree. We will walk the mile to my graveyard without one word of regret, two rich poets going over the past a little, changing a thing or two, making a few connections, doing it all with balance, stopping along the way to pet a wolf, slowing down at the locks, giving each other lectures on early technology, mentioning eels and snakes, touching a little on our two cities, cursing our Henrys a little, his Ford, my Frick, being almost human about it, almost decent, sliding over the stones to reach the island. throwing spears on the way, staring for twenty minutes at two robins starting a life together in rural Pennsylvania, kicking a heavy tire, square and monstrous, huge and soggy, maybe a 49 Hudson, maybe a 40 Packard, maybe a Buick with mohair seats and silken cords and tiny panes of glass—both of us seeing the same car, each of us driving our own brick road, both of us whistling the same idiotic songs, the tops of trees flying, houses sailing along, the way they did then, both of us walking down to the end of the island so we could put our feet in the water, so I could show him where the current starts, so we could look for bottles and worn-out rubbers, Trojans full of holes, the guarantee run out— love gone slack and love gone flat— a few feet away from New Jersey near the stones that look like large white turtles guarding the entrance to the dangerous channel where those lovers—Tristan and his Isolt, Troilus and you know who, came roaring by on inner tubes, their faces wet with happiness, the shrieks and sighs left up the river somewhere, now their fingers trailing through the wake, now their arms out to keep themselves from falling, now in the slow part past the turtles and into the bend, we sitting there putting on our shoes, he with Nikes, me with Georgia loggers, standing up and smelling the river, walking single file until we reach the pebbles, singing in French all the way back, losing the robins forever, losing the Buick, walking into the water, leaving another island, leaving another retreat, leaving another kingdom. Cheswayo Mphanza’s debut poetry collection is The Rinehart Frames (University of Nebraska Press). His poems “Frame Six” and “At David Livingstone’s Statue” appeared in the Fall 2020 issue.