A Stop Sign Worn as a Helmet

I

He cared for her whimsy
and for the way her shyness played out.

At some gotcha point, in the negative spaces of photos
spotted at some exhibition downtown,
he started to imagine her silhouette,

her T-shirt a burst of yellow
competing with Cape Cod pelicans
and stealthily-erected Jotunheimen high-rises.

She confided in him like a windmill,
invented new flags to lay claim to the territories
they never knew existed.

Everything smelled like good timber,
and the caterpillars grinned friendlier than ever.

He was the road crisscrossing her terraces of abstraction,
the man wrestling with a marlin at the car wash.

She was the mountain centered in his mind
with the slightest suggestion of a dirigible above it.

They hypnotized themselves with each other’s choices.

II

Hidden among century-old trees,
surveillance cameras recorded grotesque occurrences,
lined them up in rows,
served them with paprika.

The clouds above the cruise ships
looked like resolute middle fingers
from the shore. It was hard to tell what was going on
with locals hopping from Escher staircase to Escher staircase,
always coming back to the same general tornado.

A half-torn shack blinked satanically with its windows.
Yellow flowers were doors to assorted bad news.
After a while, governments looked like ants.

On the beach, everyone blimped around
with stupid eyes.

He decided he really couldn’t be happy
unless a midtown station
demolished in the middle of the last century
rebuilt itself on the double.

A spark in a solar panel started a fire,
but she was too busy long-distance-calling.

The babies who used to hug them wherever they went
looked uncomprehendingly
then fussed.

Sisyphean wrestlers
in a doomed circled wagon,
the two of them finally told their lips
to stop moving.

An unkindness of mockingbirds
marked their generation.

III

Before you meet again,
look for ravens on abandoned rocks
until you realize they are not the point.

The mysteries on which you’ve given up
are resolved by statues of obscure statesmen
on the Saint Petersburg bridges you’ve breezed across.

It’s almost September,
and the foliage slowly turns into leaf-peeper paradise.
All the church domes are already yellow.

Don’t rush back to the garden
where your kiss was stalled
by the sperm-smelling Lower East Side blossoms.

The slouching men you see on the cruise ship decks
are not birds. They won’t migrate toward the better,
though they might give you directions yet.

These wires reach beyond the horizon,
where the Sun still makes an appearance,
though a tad morosely.

A rusted ship might float again someday,
if you are nice enough to the bacteria
that captain it from now on.

Anton YakovlevOriginally from Moscow, Russia, Anton Yakovlev studied filmmaking and poetry at Harvard University. He is the author of chapbooks Neptune Court (The Operating System, 2015) and The Ghost of Grant Wood (Finishing Line Press, 2015). His work is published or forthcoming in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review, Fulcrum, Prelude, American Arts Quarterly, Measure, and elsewhere. He co-hosts the Carmine Street Metrics reading series in New York City and the Rutherford Red Wheelbarrow reading series in Rutherford, New Jersey. He has also directed several short films.