The Dad Poem (Don’t Cry)
The Dad Poem (Don’t Cry)
This poem is inspired by a beautiful drive across the Brooklyn Bridge, a foreign friend’s Facebook thread about the dirt and grime of NYC, and a Saturday morning commute to work.
Lonely at 1st Ave. & E. 24th St.
I remember on my birthday
I talked about the Brooklyn bridge
because it stands out in a dirty city.
I have a friend who hates it here and
he’s right, which just goes to show
being right doesn’t mean much.
Now it’s early Saturday morning,
I’m on my way to the library where
I will help people, mostly people
who didn’t keep up. The light in this city
has a relationship with dirt that you’ll never understand unless you spend mornings walking to the subway.
Saturdays at the library there are children,
a proud moment when a small girl says, “Miss Joanna, I used a metaphor,” and then a second later, “or maybe it was a simile.” And I Google it because I can never remember the difference either.
The library is small and the neighborhood is trying, a sixteen years old honors student was shot to death last week and I knew him. The violence in this city has a relationship with a small girl’s metaphor maybe simile that you’ll never understand unless you try, which I don’t quite trust you will.
This morning I’m thinking I had better
find some people who know what I mean when I say, most things that mean something to me are covered in dirt.
My co-worker texts she’s missed her train-
the kind of co-worker who only eats fast food, and loves spicy but hates peas and can’t stand pizza anymore because she ate it every Friday night for too many years on Long Island with her family,
who did not appreciate when she moved in with her fiancee before the wedding but got over it.
Although if they knew how kinky the sex was, they would probably at least complain about it loudly to their co-workers. I text back, “sugar honey iced tea,” which is something she says a lot and I picture her, at ass o’clock in the morning at a commuter train station in Long Island watching the back of her train as it leaves her behind and then she sees my text and she smiles anyway and I wonder,
what have we been worshipping this whole time?
Feelings Per Capita
Her feelings lived at the intersection of hysterically funny and heartbreaking.
One day she blew and people on the street said,
“that mushroom cloud used to be a girl.”
But they didn’t hide their faces because when someone is absolutely consumed by the things there are to feel in this world, we know how to bear witness.
The historical record does not show whether it was beautiful.
In fact there is no record, the only evidence that it occurred at all
is your secret conviction that it happens all the time.
The French Kiss is a Conspiracy
Last evening I went to the theater
The kind where you can buy a glass of wine but it’ll come in a plastic cup
which is okay because you’re supporting
the labor of love
When the protagonists kissed, I knew
they were faking, because it’s a play
and also because they had no chemistry.
Still, what the hell were the French thinking? I wonder if it started out as a trick. Can we fool the world into
I sort of hope some actors sometimes realize that almost anything is better than touching tongues, even pretending to.
In a cup of orange mango juice
I poured myself in the break room
A small bug struggles for air
I can’t tell small bugs apart
Juice invaders, subspecies my cup
Anyway I do put my finger in there
And I let the small dude climb up
and I blow on the dummy gently until
he flies away.
The Buddhists, I have gathered, argue the bug’s point of view. Better to be fully present when drowning in a place you cannot conceive than to suffer from denial that you are drowning and you don’t know where you are. I’ll be honest, most days, I take great comfort in being
the master of the finger.
I know that small bugs have no consciousness
but I have an idea that this is the only way to experience divinity,
small and empty of thought.
I hope the bug was all wonder when
a miracle came from up somewhere
and saved it from
the place that smelled like heaven.
This poem is obviously an homage to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but reimagines Juliet as language itself.
Give me a thousand words and I will dance along the aesthetic of their evocation.
The light through yonder window breaking.
Give me a man who can climb the vines of my verbiage and meet me up, up, up.
It is the East, hear the maid-sun.
We will luminate from balconies.
Beacons to close eyes, we will hold fast,
raise each other high with quiver and quiver.
Give me the images that gnaw,
and I will lay them to waste with an incantation we will share.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
who grieves for lack of lips.
Give me a thousand words, each one a maid of the image, yet far more fair than she.
Heartbroken on the Floor of the Bathroom
“It’s the cold fish dying in your stomach feeling. You try to forget about it, but as soon as you do, the fish starts flopping around under your heart and reminds you that something truly horrible is happening.” – Ruth Ozeki, A Tale For The Time Being
The cold tiles against my knees are my favorite part of throwing up.
I’m back here again, vomiting Panang curry with mixed seafood.
When my insides confront me, I pray.
I’ve never been accused of disorded eating, but then
I’ve never been accused of disordered faith either.
Before you object, try to understand:
if it’s a little bit cheeky, it’s also about the complexity of all things
and thus, how wrong anything Newtonian fast becomes.
Sorry for bringing up Newton;
the truth is I cried in the shower and again in the office.
I climbed into bed and confronted
the cold fish dying in my stomach,
the one that didn’t come up with the rest of the seafood,
the one that insists I will die if I lose you.
On Getting Your Professors Fired
You, who are tearing down for justice,
it is one of our final duties
to be convicted for the crime
of outliving our convictions.
You, who will not read the rest of this poem for awhile,
it is one of our final blessings
to be gone before your fire examines itself
and loses its desire for oxygen.
You, who will take our place,
it is one of your final duties
to return to this poem because you fear
the kids are not alright.
You, who will write a poem,
it is one of your final blessings to recognize:
the fire burns both ways,
the kids have never been alright.
They have no way to teach you. Nor can you show them
the slow maw of adulthood.