Sure sometimes Wisconsin gets cold in the summer, jacket-weather cold,
but almost always the end of August is muggy hot
and the machines we need to do our jobs so often stop.
They just stop. They take the pages we labored over,
every policy researched and thought through, assignments shaped
for permanent learning, an ongoing attempt to balance love
of students with love of subject, excellence and kindness weighted
the same. Those very pages—stuck together like hands in gloves.
Like makeup slathered on. Like sandwiches. Or shredded like potatoes.
Or torn like deckle edges. Or folded up like accordion pleats.
So just this once dear universe, benevolent being, ghosts,
please let the stupid printer simply print. Extra seals
of blessing might include collating and stapling. Thanks.
Honestly, this small thing would be enough for today.
(potential part 2--a prayer for actually staying alive during our 4th COVID semester)
Am not the productivity queen, though trying,
every bad habit I have is worse right now.
I’ve learned a new word—“recrudescence.” Wow
is that my life at 3 a.m. I keep thinking I’m dying
from the virus that makes my lips a little blue
but is not, not according to the test, the hot new sick.
You can learn a lot about a person in a pandemic,
but what you think you know might not be true.
I’ve been thinking about the shows I used to watch after school.
Who would and wouldn’t wear a mask because it was or wasn’t cool.
Leave it to Wally to be the most consistent.
The Beave would try but lose his in a minute.
The actor who played him just died—let’s take a second to grieve—
or really however long we need—but I think we can all agree
Eddie might wear his mask in front of June,
but he’d take it off the moment she left the room.
“Of course not dear,” Lovey says to her Mister
but she puts her mask back on when he looks away,
which is often, as unabsorbed as he is with her.
Dollar signs in his eyes and under his nails.
Who’s in Lovey’s eyes when she closes them?
She’s just smart enough to play dumb.
It’s not the rich man who sets her heart drumming.
It’s not her husband’s coconuts she’s rubbing.
Once more amusing myself takes an extra turn
as I’m sorting through what I’ve learned
in quarantine. It’s you I’m unhappy with, you
and your mask, or your lack of a mask, you make me rage, make me panic.
You can learn an awful lot about people in a pandemic,
but what you think you know might not be true.
Everything’s still crowded in my dreams, bathrooms the worst,
with people jammed in or lined up or knocking, “Can you hurry?
My little girl has really got to go.”
They’re chamber pots, implausible stalls, or holes
in the floor. I’m always just about to lose it
when I find a working toilet in a bank lobby.
So far, barely, at the last second, I make it.
I wake up relieved I haven’t soaked the sheets.
Last night: the closest one is full, the next
monitored by a woman I somehow know doesn’t like me.
I’m close to the parking lot. I just decide to leave.
I’m already late. Somehow this connects
to a storm brewing. It’s so dark all the streetlights
have come on. I get excited when I think of this lie:
“I’ll just tell them I thought it was already night.”
I dreamed I saw a Wooly dog descendant—
wiggle-butted, scruffy, ornery, clearly
one more in a long line of poodle-terrier mutts.
His owner said, “he’s a Rottweiler,” but
no way. Just too much Benji evident.
Black against the giant foxtail. Curly
in every way—tousled coat, bent tail,
wagging walk toward me when I called.
When I was little, we let our dogs run free
all day and shut them up at night. Also, we
got the girl dogs fixed, but not the boys.
Thus all the Wooly dogs in Southern Illinois.
Every single thing was looser then.
I was happy. My dogs were my best friends.
“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.
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: