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"March" by Lynne Potts, read by the Poet

March” is a portrait of a month that is poised between seasons, a month during which there is little left to do but wait. The speaker—who may also be March itself, considering the way the title bleeds into the body—is “sitting by a hollow tree trunk / with another month to go.” Something (warmth, cheer, April?) isn’t quite here yet. Motion is not yet possible: “you can’t find your car keys,” and so it is likewise impossible to even “think what July looks like.” In two spare couplets, both time and space are lyrically frozen.

There is wreckage in the speaker’s near past, their winter: “snow [is] exposing road kill,” which is a strange way to say that the snow is melting, and that its gradual disappearance is occasioning the appearance of something that is itself the vestige of another disappearance, that of the animating force of a dead animal. “[B]roken bottles” lie incongruously “outside McDonald’s,” where nothing is sold in glass bottles. Nourishment, capitalist in aspect and lacking in nutrition, is attended by vessels that have lost their ability to contain.

But the speaker, without warning, moves away from these devastations and drifts into what April or May or June or even July might look like, associatively linking “junk in the alley” and a “junco on the fence” to “pregnant magnolias” and maples flush with sap. This hopeful reverie pulls up short with a sudden “but not yet,” and the speaker informs us that “it’s all stagnant potential,” this month in which we are still waiting, so far away from July.

Bats, presumably in hibernation (like the poem, like March, like the speaker) are “stuck to attic rafters,” immobile and waiting to wake. The poem’s near-complete eschewing of punctuation grants this line and the two that follow it (in which the speaker finally appears) a doubled action: “bats stuck to attic rafters / I braced myself against / a wind tunnel by the Hancock.” The speaker simultaneously braces themself against attic rafters and against a wind tunnel. The speaker is in two places at once, or perhaps more accurately neither, considering the sudden use of the past tense, which extends into the next couplet: “pigeons threw crumbs at me / I threw them back.” The speaker returns the world’s hostility in kind.

And it is the terrifying expansion and deepening of this hostility in the subsequent and final two lines that strand us in a place that we did not know we had arrived at, a place we did not ask to be taken to: “Everyone acts like March is nothing / but it should be locked up.” This couplet features the first majusculated line since the poem’s opening, and the poet’s decision to end-stop functions as a kind of turning of the key, a locking of the cage whose bars (whose couplets) we have helped erect in the reading. Lynne Potts realizes the lyric poet’s dream of freezing not just a moment but an entire month.

She arrests it. She incarcerates it.

Lynne Potts has three published books of poetry, two as winners of National Poetry Review Press contests. The third by Glass Lyre Press. In addition, more than 150 of Lynne’s poems have appeared in journals such in Paris Review, Yale Review, The Southern Review, American Letters, California Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Cincinnati Review, Conduit, Commentary, Confrontation, Denver Quarterly, Georgetown Review, Meridian, New American Writing, Southern Humanities Review and many others. Lynne has been the recipient of several awards including four fellowships. She lives in Boston and New York.

Alex Tretbar is a Writers for Readers Fellow with the Kansas City Public Library, where he teaches free writing classes to the community. His poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, Kenyon Review, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere.


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