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Tag Archives: poetryImage
I was only joking. My arm wasn’t hurt at all.
The penny hadn’t come from high enough.
My friends and I laughed and laughed
imagining the panicked high schoolers
above us who were just then perhaps
feeling a little regret for throwing things
off the tower they were climbing.
But honestly, why do what they were supposed to?
Just stand in line until the top then look around
and point? That’s what the ads showed.
It looked like a giant waterslide without water.
Or a slide. Just a thing to pay money and do.
My brain knows I find it amusing
so works pretty constantly to please
and handing me this sentence
(which I’ve said out loud six times already)
right before my alarm went off two hours ago
was definitely a gift—a precious Monday morning gift—
not only does Fledermeyer rhyme with
Neidermeyer so that Animal House
hovers in my memory of the dream
(maybe that campus is where my friends
and I were walking to, instead of where I really work),
I realized on reflection that the lack of masks
and distancing were of no concern
to anyone, not even me (and I am
generally, dramatically, in real life, concerned),
so it must have been done, the whole thing,
finally, and we could walk with our friends,
and make dumb jokes, or leave the house
to climb a winding stairway, mushed together,
get bored in line and get in trouble,
the kind that isn’t about a disease.
have nights when sloppy kisses seem just the thing
to bestow on every still-living friend I see
and we’ll stare so close the sparks in our eyes will clank
together, warming our faces, and we’ll be drunk
on air, each other’s breath, we’ll pant, outrush,
and suck each other in, French-cigarette-style, Irish
waterfalls of laughter—such noise!—and good old love
and food we paid someone else to make and serve.
Or maybe I will read about these things
or overhear them but not emerge from my house
because you never know what’s lurking about,
what new horror’s slouching in the wings.
I will stay in, I will demur no thank you,
I will say safe is what I’ve gotten used to.
I may have picked my nose on that Zoom call
just now. I don’t do it a lot, I promise.
I just lose track of being onscreen is all.
If I did it, I didn’t notice while
my finger dug. But I sensed an emptiness….
I may have flashed a boob on that Zoom call
while I was fixing both bra straps, which fall
off my shoulders so constantly, so fast.
I just lose track of being onscreen. It’s all
so mediated, so exhausting, so unreal.
I miss other people’s halitosis.
I may have murdered someone on that Zoom call
when they walked in front of my camera. Again. “Talk talk
talk talk talk” and then somehow, silence.
I lose track of being onscreen. That’s not all.
I chew, mouth wide open. I mop up spills.
Why shouldn’t I? I am, after all, the host.
I may have transubstantiated on that Zoom call.
I just lost track of being onscreen. That’s all.
The kitten I’m holding watches
the pen move across the page,
nose tracking the same pace as my writing.
She would rather my right hand
spend its time some other way,
petting her, for example.
She’s so small, a runt
(not a kitten any more) and I can
hold her with one arm, steady,
and feel her purring over my heart.
But she keeps wiggling, wanting
all my attention, both of my arms.
(I was thinking of this Phil Levine poem, “A Theory of Prosody,” as I wrote, as I stopped writing.)
NOTE: she got down by choice after the selfie. I’d have waited to post it online otherwise. NOTE: she’s back. So it’s time to hit publish.
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.
(pandemic poem #11)
IN WHICH THURSTON HOWELL III DECLARES THE PROFESSOR IS EXAGGERATING COVID-19 NUMBERS AND THAT THE HOWELLS HAVE NEVER WORN AND WON’T EVER WEAR MASKS OR PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING EXCEPT FROM PEOPLE WHO AREN’T WORTHY OF THEIR TIME
“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.
(pandemic poem #10)
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.
(Italicized lines, if it’s not obvious to everyone, are from Allen Ginsberg’s amazing poem, “America.”)
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?
I’m not the only one having weird dreams lately: even the National Geographic says so.
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.”