Category Archives: Spring Green

Answering America (pandemic poem #9)

We are an unserious country. We are a joke.
We say “thank you for your service” to police lined up before
we scream in their faces. This has to be funny. This can’t be real
because if it’s real, Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb
is, like, the mildest imprecation possible. And maybe we already did.
Some weapons-grade sperm implanted strong, healthy, blond eggs,
implanted in the rivers lining the Midwest, somewhere between
the Mississippi and the Missouri, we were so pregnant we waddled
and gave birth so many times to nuclear idiots, venal and mean, and so white.
So many of them. So loud. So sure. So heavily armed. So angry. So white.

I don’t feel good don’t bother me. It’s not corona virus. I don’t think.
But how would I know? There are tests everywhere. Everyone who wants one gets one.
But not me. So I don’t know. It might be some other dread disease.
I have symptoms. But I veer so whiplashingly from hyper aware to oblivious
about my body, I don’t even know when I’m hungry. Everything hurts. Then nothing does.

I don’t need more books but I’m buying them. And buying them.
Support a local business, I tell myself. I don’t drink beer anymore. I don’t miss bars.
I miss someone else making my coffee. I miss someone else making me cookies.
I miss browsing the shelves. America why are your libraries full of tears?
The books miss being handled. They miss the browsing. Even curbside service
leaves them lonely. When you order the very book you want and someone pulls it
for you, there’s another book just three books down, a bright red spine
you’ll never see, a font that catches your eye, an author photograph you develop
an instant, serious, intense crush on, but not now, not when we’re quarantined,
not when we’re not sure where we can go or how to go when we go where we have to go.

When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?
You and me both, buddy. When? Here’s the thing—when can I go shopping
and not think about washing every single thing I’ve bought? You and your
mid-century modern concerns. No wasted space on those worries. No flourishes.
You had no idea how lucky you had it. You stewed over the atom bomb
but one never went boom by you. That’s not why your hair fell out.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
We need a haircut. We need a massage. We need to go bowling. For the love of God,
we need to park in a row of SUVs and wear our Sunday best business casual khaki
soul suits and raise holy hands together, repeating structurally plain refrains,
daydreaming under architecture designed by industrial archangels bent on compliance
and ease. There is nothing sublime where all of us on stage wear a mic
designed to blend with our faces, making our projected voices seem miraculous.

America its them bad Russians.
Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.

The more things change, the more they
change. The more things stay the same.
The more, the more, the more.
Nothing is ever good or bad but America makes it so.
The tiny little campus where I’ve taught for half my life has always had
a lot of international students and I’ve loved them, 93% of them, for sure,
but now we have a sphincter in Arkansas mouthing they can come here to study
Shakespeare or the Federalist papers but not quantum computing. I don’t know but
I’m guessing the mouth-sphincter from Arkansas did not study Shakespeare. Or math.
One time I had a Russian student tell me he missed the Soviet Union.
He missed being in charge of half the world. I guess I should’ve warned someone.

Curvy hips on a girl and six-pack abs on a boy will take us wherever
we want to go if we also have good teeth, good hair, a willingness
to be provocative, to be deeply, deeply offended, to be filmed taking a shit.
America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.
Until the world collapsed, we had no unedited experience, no authentic
way of being in the world, everything styled, just so product placement, curated.
However now our roots are showing. Our nails have fallen off. Perfect lips droop.
The blush is off the rosé colored glasses. The blush was broken capillaries all along.

It’s going to get worse in the city on the hill before it gets better.
We flattened the curve to prove we could and now we’re whipping it
like a cowboy on a tacky tv show because we can. I don’t mean Hee Haw.
That’s where I first learned about re-runs. String Bean died, I knew he did,
but there he was on Channel 12 KFVS Cape Girardeau, as I lived and breathed,
as he did not. Someone explained it to me. Probably my brother who
always loved giving me bad news. Now we say of people who are dead
“at least they don’t have to go through this.” Of people so far gone in Alzheimer’s,
“at least he doesn’t know we’re not there.” This moment nothing seems possible except more
disaster. More terror. More sadness. More cycles of hot takes and outrage and bounce-backs
and war and corruption and always, always, another novel virus waiting in somebird’s wings.
America is this correct?
I’d better get right down to the job.

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(Italicized lines, if it’s not obvious to everyone, are from Allen Ginsberg’s amazing poem, “America.”)

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And if you’re super-lucky, the bookstore in your town just drops the books you bought right on your front porch.

Dream Song #7, Pandemic Poem #8

O it was a zappy, snappy kind of play,
a gum-chewing-broad kind of play,
little bit of a farce, little shedding of tears,
one of those whodunnit/I-did-it! plays.
And right at the end they did a little two-step,
a shuffle-tap, heel-step, second buffalo,
curtain call. And they were gone.
But as we all stood up to leave,
a guy we’d never seen before
came onstage. What had been pink
and aqua, very 1950s Miami style,
was all gray now. Lighting design
or point of view? Or both?
Everyone saw, everyone knew, all at once,
as he felt his way across the stage,
saying “canopy bed” instead of what it was,
a ratty mattress on the floor, saying
“four course dinner” and not “paper bag,”
that he’d made the whole thing up
in his head, all of it, the repartee, the chemistry,
the happy dance, the stolen kiss,
the mystery, the denouement,
and we stood and looked at each other,
not sure if the play was ended or how
indeed it could end, because
who made this part up? Did he? Did we?
Should we leave? Are we real?

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I’m not the only one having weird dreams lately: even the National Geographic says so.

Questions of Real Estate

“Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?” Elizabeth Bishop

 

When I look at Real Estate in The New York Times,
I am charmed, absorbed by how small the spaces are
how much they cost, how light, how airy, how clever.
And oh!  The things the owners say sometimes:
“It’s a modest little apartment but it’s so well done,”
(Barbara Barrie said) “It has brought me joy every day.”
But the odds for joy on the Upper West Side of Manhattan
are better than even, I’d guess. I really couldn’t say.
I am obsessed with other people’s homes.
I drive by houses and picture myself there.
Would I like it? Are the people inside happier
or sadder? Do they want to stay or go?
I think I could be happy anywhere.

I could be happy anywhere but here.

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I suppose it’s possible that last line is true, but more likely it’s the poet in me having that line occur to me and going NICE TWIST.  In any case, my house in small-town Wisco is pretty sweet sometimes:

a pic my husband took this morning

Behind. Alive. So Bright.

New snow and hoar frost and every cliché
about crystals and diamonds and stars—
my commute the other morning was bright
while my mood was altogether grim, standard
mid-semester stew of “I am so far behind”
with big chunks of “I live in squalor” and
an extra soupçon of regret. Remonstrance
aplenty as I set out for work and yet
those damn sparkles everywhere,
especially on the red blackberry canes,
and I won’t say the grimness diminished,
but I played like each spot of silver
shining in the morning sun was one more thing
I needed to do that wasn’t yet done
and honestly I’ve never felt more alive.
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The snow, thankfully, is mostly gone. But the bottles in my garden are glowing.

Routine Magic

Attention, please–both from and to the very best
of audiences any company could ever hope
to play to, so we hear–that cellophane
you’re crinkling deci-bells itself far, far beyond
your little ears–and also, when the music starts,
post-intermission but before the actors
reappear, that’s not your cue to talk
a little louder–no, it means shut up.
What’s more–I could go on. I won’t. It’s just–
we’re so lucky that it feels routine.
Each night they crank up the volcano, test
the atom bomb, make love from paper, walk
a cobweb tightrope, grow trees from lowly beans….
We’re privy to it all, all summer, face to face.
There is more than routine magic in this place.

picture of lit path with nearly-full moon

American Players Theatre on a moony night.

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This is the last weekend for up-the-hill shows at American Players Theatre and for most of the shows in the Touchstone Theater. A Doll’s House, Part 2 begins later this month and runs through the middle of November–I’m super excited to see it.

It was a fantastic season and I’m so happy it’s not quite done.

The first bit of that very nonce-y sonnet up there–that’s me being crabby. I’m more and more comfortable being crabby. And then the sestet–that’s me being appreciative. Which I’m also more and more comfortable being.

So lucky to live down the road from this routinely magical spot.

Everything.

Like when there’s a good-looking man on a tractor
driving on the shoulder and he’s bouncing
because it’s an old tractor, a Farmall, the best kind—
before I got up to him, he was in silhouette, all black
because the sun behind us was orange and pink, a peach,
the whole sky was a peach, the sun a bright red frisbee,
on probably the last truly muggy day of the year,
the last day of September, before the cold in October—
I’m telling you it was hot and he was hot and I was hot.
Everything was on fire—that’s what it was like.
What? What was like that? Everything.

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Garage Sale Liver Disease–a tiara of sonnets

Day 1
We were running anxiously, ridiculously late in the dream
I had right before I woke up this morning. At first
I was driving and realized I was taking the scenic route—
I go that way a lot when I’m asleep—
and then I was on my bike and completely lost track
of where the sidewalk was and all the sudden
I was inside a hospital. I couldn’t find my way back
at first and by the time I did, it was noon….
In real life, this morning, we started right at 8:00
to a flurry of people looking for cameras and toys,
of which, of which, of which we have a great,
vast really, trove; along with other…joys (?)
just waiting to be yours, all priced to sell,
and so much more we’ll be bringing out as well.

Day 2
There’s so much more to bring out, but it’s just as well
the sale ends tomorrow. Even though
we have enough to hold a goddam sale
every weekend from now until…who knows?
I’m fond of saying we are just one half
a matchbook collection away from being an episode
of Hoarders. This sale has pulled us safely back
from the brink. A house can only hold so much.
A house is like a liver. Everything
goes through and if you have too much of everything,
production slows. Deposits accumulate.
“Fatty liver.” A disease I have. A name I hate.
With virtuous living, it can be reversed.
What happens to an abused liver? Does it burst?

Day 3
What happens to an abused liver? Does it burst?
The sheath around it a shoe that pinches.
My liver gets uncomfortable. It hurts.
My ability to overindulge is diminished.
All those years of “Yes, I’ll have another,”
of thinking, saying, “too much is just enough.”
My body’s damaged. My house is still too full of stuff.
Less and less is the way I’ll recover.

“Well, no, I won’t take $10 for that. $15.
No lower. I’d rather give it to St. Vinny’s for free.”
“I’m sorry, no, we didn’t end up bringing out
any CDs or DVDs. Yes, those are all the tools we’ve got.”

We did the best we could. It wasn’t great.
As always, we were running anxiously, ridiculously late.
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