#341: This Animal, This Dog.

Say the word animal.
Look at this dog.
It doesn’t seem right
somehow. The word
animal simultaneously
not sufficient and too
much. This creature
seems to rise above
the distinction, as you
talk to it and feel for it,
pick up after it and
play with it as if it
were a human child.
And yet, a lion is an
animal. Giraffes are
animals, and for some
reason, you, most of us,
have forgotten or
have never actually
believed that people
are also animals.
You are an animal.
This animal is you.
And even if you didn’t
choose, even if the dog
just kind of landed
on your lap, so to speak,
even if you believe that
life would be so much
simpler and easier
without the demands
on you of caring for
this animal, your heart
melts when you look
at this face, you squirm
with joy in response
to her kisses, a tongue
in your ear, nibbles on
your fingers, and you
know no sweeter
sensation than burying
your face in the clean,
sweet fur of her coat.
This animal, this dog.

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#340: Skylarking

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It’s 1986, the winter
after our wedding and we’re
living in a shack. Seriously,
I’m not a tall guy and I can
stand in the living room
and place my hands flat
on the ceiling. It’s the holiday
season and I’ve just bought
XTC’s “Skylarking,” which
I listen to from start to finish
over and over and over again,
sitting on our cheap-ass
rattan settee from Pier One
Imports, headphones blasting.
It’s cold outside but Andy sings
of Summer’s Cauldron, Colin sings
about adolescent sex, the birds
chirp and the keyboards thrum
and Super Supergirl comes on
and I’m on fire like I’ve never
been about how good a good
pop song can be in the hands
of master songwriters. And
Rundgren’s production, his
attempt to make them sound
American and their response
to sound more English than ever,
so perfectly wrong and beautiful.
The strings of 1,000 Umbrellas
sing to me under Andy’s
woeful lament of joyful misery
as The Season’s Cycle moves
round and round. Side two
finds me right where I am,
newly married, schooling
unfinished, worrying about
whether I can Earn Enough
For Us after our Big Wedding Day.
My mind blown by the
perfect fusion of rock,
jazz, and big idea in The Man
Who Sailed Around His Soul,
and finally, a pop song
gives me words to express
my budding atheism and I am
grateful beyond all account.
Poor and happy, hopeful,
this record gives me 14 songs
to sing for the rest of my life
and I am still singing them,
will keep singing them
in my Dying, while Colin
croons along in this great
Sacrificial Bonfire of existence.

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#339: A Poem for Easter

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Jesus and the Easter Bunny walk into a bar.
Sugar ants invade the bathroom, are crawling
all over the toothpaste tube and toothbrushes.
They are not, necessarily, on friendly terms;
it goes almost without saying.
The bunny goes in for Steam Punk art,
likes Jesus and the Mary Chain, which the Son
of God finds amusing, and in the off season
dresses entirely in black. Jesus has read the
four gospels and has many questions.
Sugar ants are easily bored, and they appear
to materialize out of nowhere, are interested
in what Jesus is drinking, a Pinot Noir most
likely. One would be surprised how many
varieties of biting insects there are in the backyard
and in the bedroom. Jesus wonders if sugar ants
are biters. Decides not to look into that any further.
The Easter Bunny drinks Bourbon, neat. He’s
curious why Jesus has invited him. They’ve not
been on what you could call speaking terms.
Customarily, Jesus does not kill insects, but an
ant swims around in his glass and has drowned
by the time he fishes it out. This one does not bite.
Have you read them? Jesus asks. Read what?
The four Gospels. Can’t say that I have, says the Bunny.
Do you know how many immaculate conception
stories there are, across cultures, across the
millennia? And how many resurrections?
As the sugar ants pass him by, one by one,
The Bunny picks them up and puts them in
his mouth. I have not counted, he says to Jesus,
but I suspect there are as many as there are
sugar ants crossing the bar. Do you believe them?
I believe sugar ants, Jesus says. They’re as plain
as the nose on your face. How do they taste?
It’s not the season, he says, too early. And some
of these guys have a decidedly minty thing
going on, almost like they’ve been swimming
in toothpaste. I mean to say, it’s not that unusual,
Jesus says, my birth, my death, my rebirth, or
yours, yours, yours. And the ants go marching.

 

 

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#338: A Wannabe Nerd

M_-_New_York_London_Paris_Munich_album_cover

He says, Do you remember that song by M.? That was 1979,
I say, and I was fifteen. Talk about, he said, pop music.
That’s the only thing I remember. Yeah, the only other thing
I can remember is shooby dooby doo wop. It was a kind of,
I say, spoken word thing, a nonsensical white boy rap
thing. A cool song but that guy, or that band, just vaporized.
Right? he says. You know, if you think about the other nerd
pop gems of ’79, I say, I can think of three right off the top of my
head that were so nerdy they came out the other end the
coolest thing ever: Devo’s Are We Not Men, Gary Numan’s
The Pleasure Principle, and Talking Heads’ Fear of Music.
Those bands were nerdy as fuck–they put nerd rock on the map.
This M. guy, I say, as you nod your head vigorously, was not
authentically nerdy, was a failed nerd, a wannabe nerd.

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#337: A Living Legend on Two Continents

 

Coincidentally, I have already written a poem this month that follows today’s suggestion from the napowrimo website, to write an abecedarian, a poem that uses the alphabet as  some key feature of its form. If you haven’t seen it already, here’s a linky-link. It turned out nicely, I think.

Since my intern Max is teaching the 9th graders today how to write a found poem, that’s what I have chosen today. Here’s how Barbara Drake defines a found poem: “The term found describes a text lifted out of some original context and arranged to give the appearance, form, or sound we associate with poetry. The found material is thrown into new, possibly amusing or ironic light by this rearrangement . . . Generally, one may not add words to, or otherwise unfairly distort, the original. The finder may, however, edit the original. He or she can, for example, add a title, or lineate the words on the page for emphasis or rhythm.” My text comes from the liner notes on the back cover of Slim Whitman’s Just for You album, and, I’ve taken some liberties with Drake’s definition, specifically, by changing all of this ad text into a first person lyric.

A Living Legend on Two Continents

I’ve heard him on t.v. I’ve
thrilled to the exclusive money
saving offer below, the magic
of this living legend, on two
continents, this special
treasury. Only he
can sing my cherished
number one record in England.
Not available anywhere else
in the entire U.S.A.
When my blue moon
turns to roses, there goes
my everything, somewhere
my love sails along my
happiness, rambling, more
than 1,400,000 sold on t.v.
Millions of Americans are
falling in love, beautifully,
tenderly, sweeping America
for more weeks than even Elvis,
and the words to most of the
songs are included free.
Old Time piano music never
sounded so good. Make the
world go away. Exclusive
8-track tapes, $9.98, the sweetest
music this side of heaven.
These are the 50 songs
I will always love.

 

 

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#336: Kids These Days

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My intern Max
delivers a lesson
today to 9th graders
in a unit study of
Elie Wiesel’s Night.
Today, he’s asking
them to think,
write, and speak
about indifference.
My sixth period,
usually rambunctious,
squirrely, silly, noisy,
rises to the occasion
today with seriousness,
sincerity, and hope.
Max, my intern, asks,
What’s our obligation
toward the suffering
of other people?
Wyatt says, we should
always stand up for
the weak. Andrea says,
we must respect differences
between people, no
matter where they are
in the world. Mickel says
we should help people
out, provide for them
the things they need,
things they don’t have through
no fault of their own.
A different Wyatt says,
it’s not our job to help,
but because we can,
we should.
I am writing all of this
down and my heart sings.

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#335: CPR Anytime!

How many times
have you had the urge
to do CPR in your home?
Now you can do CPR
anytime you want!
Perfect for dinner parties,
summer pool get-togethers,
birthday bashes, and
holiday festivities
with friends and family,
any occasion during
which some unfortunate
soul might keel over.
Fun for all ages.
Get a kick out of watching
Dad struggle with the
inflatable incapacitated person!
See grandma flounder because
she isn’t familiar with
“Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees!
Try to trick the young ones
into providing mouth to mouth
to the dummy!
CPR Anytime provides
Hours of entertainment
by developing useful,
potentially life-saving skills
while coming to grips with the idea
that at any time, someone you love,
or a complete stranger, might be
accidentally dying in your presence.

 

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