Jake Montgomery: “Chamber”


The room needs space
to watch the bridge lift the road
from mist and water. Between
calm and terror. The room seems.

Have you ever been alone
inside a submarine? Is that
what death is like? The sun fades.
You are the surface and below it,

there is nothing of your body,
only surface, waves washed into voice,
and voice into water, water into nothing,
a clean quiet wall of submarine:

a fine pale blue. The first day
of death, you think you are in
the sky similar to the first day
of living, but without the shapes.

You have lived a life, for Christ’s
sake, made love: invent your own
shapes. The submarine goes on,
the walls move in. On Tuesdays,

Tuna, on Wednesdays bologna.
Sloppy Joe, Sloppy Joe, Sloppy Joe.
The room is tidily opaque,
full of only rubber, surrounded

by militaries of water. And water
and water filling the mind’s lung.
You wonder between breaths.
You want the why to cave in,

but the where is carved out, and location
makes a difference. There are no windows
from your thoughts to his or hers
or to those of Michelangelo.

You live as if tied to a tree, grown
inside a whale, dark wet blue
abacinated matter. Wallpaper
is a room’s heroic impulse, and

a backbone, the hero’s walls.
You are awake. Are you the hero?
Check for leaks. Check
the water pressure and scope

for enemies. Walk down the dark
tunnel. It smells of plastic container
and engine. It tastes of room. Walk through
the iron muck. The room belongs

to time. How long, how far the brink?
Have we been here your marriage’s
worth of memories? The room will ask
clearless, pewter questions

with lurches and stillness, bells and
drum. Listen to the room’s padded
walls become the limits of your thinking,
look out. See the empty carnival.

Your mother has died. Your father
has died. The walls are mephitic.
The submarine pushes your skin
beneath the soul, beneath all effort,

and vision greys in that guttering socket.
So hums the iron loom. You fashion
new lenses, and these models permit a strain
of blindness that caresses the room’s bunk

and chair into a memory, of theater.
The trumpets found you by the stairs,
to which your tired labor had brought
little fortune, until it appeared as change

in a pocket, a map in hand. That was youth.
Then the walls fell, as if the outside world existed,
and it may have been true. The room caught
the green night sky in your palm. You stood

under celestial upholstery
like under waterfall. You established
the brinks of ambition that allowed you
passage. You visited a friend in Cuba,

gazed through mist, at clouds over a park,
like through a window out of darkness
and drew tight circles on heaven’s back,
so sure of rainfall. You clapped your hands.

You clap them again like a whip,
expecting to find–what?–a way out?
No, you fall through the names
of your life, through the 50c post cards from

the Jean-Marie Newsstand, into the room.
Somewhere, children kick a ball against
temple stone, somewhere plans
for another outing. You walk inside the temple,

no: you pull the blanket close, lifting
a hatch in your mind to a further room,
one with less light, less sound, less memory,
fewer questions, an altar, less of you.


Jake Montgomery is from Southern New Jersey and currently lives in Iowa City, IA. He has studied poetry at Harvard University and the University of Iowa.

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