From Issue 18: Learning How Not To

Paul Ilechko
The sweet susurration of tires continues
as cars drift ruefully past my house.
It’s a constant stream, day and night,
and by now I no longer hear them.
Except, there are fewer after midnight,
which means that the extra ones in morning
act as a gentle kind of alarm clock,
drawing me out, hauling me up
from the deep, still waters of sleep.

Long ago, I learned to draw. In order to draw
well you need to learn not to think
too much. Afterwards, I learned to paint,
which to my surprise involved forgetting
how to draw. The ability to paint well
is grounded in many small acts of refusal.
If I were to paint the cars on the street
I would probably use very little black.
For some of my teachers, any amount
of black was too much. Use blue,
they said. Or even purple. Look more closely,
peer into darkness and learn to see
the light that escapes from the black.
(There is always light. Even in blackness)

After I was finished with painting, I began
to write. Having already learned how
not to think may have been what led
me into poetry. Nothing is more damaging
to the poet than a sequential mind. The stream
of cars can only exist as fiction. The darkness
in poetry refuses to release the light.
Paul Ilechko is the author of the chapbook “Bartok in Winter” (Flutter Press, 2018). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Stickman Review, Mocking Heart Review, Oberon, and Dime Show Review. He lives in Lambertville, NJ, with his girlfriend and a cat.