Tag Archives: Villanelle

Half-Vast

Half-vast is way too close to half-assed,
both in how it sounds and how I do it,
aim for one and miss. Too slow. Too fast,

the one I want goes hurtling past.
Like ice melting and turning itself into fluid.
Half-assed is way too close to half-vast,

which is a measurement so imprecise
it’s no surprise I so consistently lose what
I aim for. Consistently miss. I’m slow. How fast

and clever and organized do I need to be?
I can’t begin to explain or even intuit
how perpetually close half-vast is to half-assed.

I still very much want my teachers to be pleased.
I want, I want. All my grinding duties
aim for safety and miss, too slow or maybe too fast

for anyone I want to impress to be impressed.
I had elaborate plans. They are somewhat ruined.
Half-vast is way too close to half-assed.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound so depressed.

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DIES IREAE DASYPODIDAE

She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass
but wouldn’t say why. Also a caption that read,
“The armored possums are advancing fast.”

She’s always been the type with lots of worries,
chief among them, ways she could end up dead.
She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass

then said she felt as though she’d run out of gas.
As though nothing made it fun to get out of bed.
The armored possums are advancing fast

already into Southern Illinois. They crossed
the river bottoms by letting out all their breath.
She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass

but she still makes so much sense to me. At least
I think I can guess why she did what she did.
The armored possums are advancing fast

is just her way of saying everything’s gone past
recovering. There’s precious little hope in this world.
She tattooed a purple armadillo on her ass
because the armored possums are advancing fast.

 

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Asking for a Friend

Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?
How do you know when you’ve crossed the line?
Thanks for your help. Just asking for a friend.

Wow. One matchbook collection more and you’d be in
a clutter monkey reality show of your own.
Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?

And if there is a demarcated line, can
you live inside the shape you’ve bent it in?
Thanks in advance. Just asking for a friend.

When your life falls apart, what does that mean?
Will your house ever be clean, ever again?
Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?

What if you remember one scary time when
one of your cousins seemed way too interested in
your secret parts. Asking for a friend.

You don’t recall his touching you like that back then.
So why his interest? You were so scared. So why?
Where does ramshackle end and squalid begin?
(I know you know it’s me) asking for a friend.

—–

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(This is actually an organized spot in my house, where we store paper to recycle and reuse. But it LOOKS messy.

 

 

Remarkable

 

Something remarkable happened today—
I looked in the mirror and I liked how I looked.
(I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.)

There’s something you should know—how very much I weigh,
and the fact that my back is fused and strange and crooked.
Something remarkable happened today

in the locker room mirror. I thought, “Hey–
nice hip.” (The right one sticks out and I had it stuck.)
I was wearing my bright blue one-piece, by the way,

the one that inspired a very fit man last month to say
“New suit, looks good.” I mostly just said thanks,
which means another remarkable thing happened that day.

I didn’t make excuses. I didn’t say
I’m sorry I’m not leaner. I didn’t choke
for wearing a swimming suit. By the way,

I thought my entire body looked okay.
For me to think that—it’s like lightning struck.
Something remarkable happened today.
I was wearing a swimming suit, by the way.

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No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.

No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.
Here are your snow boots, but they might not fit.
This same moment happens every year.

I always swear to myself, “next year I’ll remember.”
The spring equivalent is baseball glove and cleats.
No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.

Did you look in your closet? They should be there,
if you had an organized mother, that is. Yours isn’t.
This same moment happens every year.

Your snow boots are tight? Your feet got bigger?
Well, you’ll only have to hobble a little bit.
No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.

The coat rack? The front hall? The back porch?
The oven? Space station? Tardis? I quit.
This same moment happens every year.

It’s faster just to buy new ones, I swear.
I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with spit.
No, I don’t know where your snow pants are.
This same moment happens every year.

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The alarmingly tight snow boots.

If I Loved You Before the Election, I Probably Still Do

If I loved you before the election, I probably still do.
Even more than how you voted, I’m thinking about
what’s good and bad, what scares us most, what’s true.

I’m worried who the bad things are happening to.
Our list of bad things might be different, but
if I loved you before the election, I probably still do.

It isn’t like I thought we lived in a commune,
but Jesus, how can we be so far apart
on what’s good and bad, what scares us most, what’s true?

Do you feel this frightened when my side wins and you lose?
I’m sorry if you do. I didn’t know that.
If I liked you before the election, I probably still do,

unless I can only be your friend if I voted like you.
It makes me anxious when we’re asking what
is good and bad, what scares us most, what’s true

because we can’t even manage to watch the same news.
It looks like a storm cloud to me. What’s it look like to you?
If I loved you before the election, I probably still do.
What’s good? What’s bad? What scares us most? What’s true?

_____

Don’t get me wrong–I have really firm opinions about the election. My side lost in the primary and the general. I’m trying to figure out how to process it, how to understand it, what to do. But one of the things that freaks me out the most is how far apart we are as a country, as a state. It feels to me like we could bust out into our own version of the Troubles any moment. (Some violence is already here.) I honestly don’t know what to do.  I decided to start re-learning Spanish.  And I did buy, but haven’t started reading yet, Katherine Cramer’s book, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker.

And speaking of Scott Walker, here are some thoughts I had on similar matters five years ago. I just read the Cadfael books again and they still seem to have so much to say about disagreeing and either empathizing or not with the people you’re disagreeing with. There are two parts,  Grief for the Uncousinly Chasm. And then Grief for the Uncousinsly Chasm, Part II. There’s a part III I haven’t had the nerve to write yet, on the chasm between what I believed when I was actively Baptist and what I believe now as what I call a Zen Baptist–the chasm between what some of my friends and family believe and what I do.

You can take this line from the villanelle as either taking the Lord’s name in vain or a prayer (or both–I mean it as both):

Jesus, how can we be so far apart?

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It looks like bleak November to me. What’s it look like to you?

Somewhere in Eastern Montana on a Train

The rocks rise up just like Jehovah scat,
vast droppings from the great mad God above.
The train won’t stop. I don’t know where I’m at.

I might be lost. I might have been kidnapped.
The train’s so cold I’m wearing gloves.
The rocks rise up just like Jehovah scat,

but they’re not visible on my little map.
The lounge car is the only home I have
because the train won’t stop. Where I’m at

is a deeply pleasing dizzy place, perhaps
because I’m reading The Sheltering Sky, which I love.
The rocks rise up just like Jehovah scat

on these Great Plains! Foothills! The snow, like sand,
obscures the tracks. How do we even move?
The train won’t stop. I don’t know where I am

with all my wonder wander wonder shit.
I’ll be home for Christmas soon enough.
The rocks rise up like Jehovah scat.
The train won’t stop. I don’t know where I’m at.

____________

Christmas 1989  I rode the Empire Builder train from Whitefish, Montana to Chicago and then the train they call the City of New Orleans on down into Southern Illinois. It was a miserable trip. There was a lot of snow and it was very cold (in North Dakota? Who could have expected that?) and the bathrooms kept freezing up. We stopped at every station, trashed the bathrooms, and by the time I got to St. Louis, the train was more than 24 hours late. You can keep your romantic train travel visions to yourself, thank you very much.

Unless you’re Laura Gibson, in which case I feel so lucky to have caught your show at The Shitty Barn.  (Sometimes I can’t stand how lucky I am to live in Spring Green.  The barn’s just a short walk from my house.)

Her new album is called Empire Builder, and as she sang the title track, I was reminded that I’d tried and tried to write a poem that captured the weirdness of that train trip.  Given my track record of poems about that trip (#27yearsoftrying), I may still not have done it.  But I got inspired whilst Laura was singing and wrote it all, there (almost all–revised some when I got home).

So thanks to the Shitty Barn & thanks to Laura Gibson for a great night and a little fit of inspiration. Have a listen to her song “The Cause”  and see if you get inspired your own self.

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Oh, how I love thee, Shitty Barn.