Pop Song of Myself
A collection of poems I wrote for my MFA thesis. This is a small sample.
Academy of American Poets College Prize
Western Regional Honors Council Award for Poetry
Carolyn Barnes Poetry Award
1st prize, Vera Hinckley Mayhew Creative Arts Contest
To My Desk
Particle-board shore where my washed-up ideas
wash up. Swede from the province of Ikea,
land of lingonberries and floor lamps,
christened “Finn.” Bought years ago
by an ex who left and left you, little life raft,
in my storm-blown one-bedroom
in her wake. Faithful supporter
of poetry and paperclips.
Town square where the stapler
has married the hole punch
and half-read books live in towers
on the outskirts. Tonight as your fan
blows its mechanical wind, do you dream
of resurrection as dark Brazilian timber,
swaying in Amazonian breezes?
Or of dancing sambas to Antônio Carlos Jobim
on my stereo, your stiff legs loosening?
Or do you prefer the blues?
Do you memorize each line I write?
Or loathe your station in life, O station
of stationery? Are you mute and I dumb
as wood to address you like this?
These days we are both a bit unstable,
wobble of the legs and of the heart respectively.
Birthplace of “Ode to a Cucumber”
and ill-advised e-mails to old girlfriends.
Saturday evening dinner companion,
where tonight the menu is microwaved
burrito in Cheez-Whiz reduction, and I raise
in praise my Diet Coke to you.
What We Knew
The Long Hot Boil, a horror flick about
global warming, made Wayne Knutson pee his pants
on a field trip in the seventh grade, and we laughed
at his expense. We knew that if Becky Kingsley called
you “dweeb” in phys. ed., she really meant, Kiss me
ardently by the soda machine between fifth and sixth
periods, lover boy. In junior high school I flunked
geography twice, unable to press a grimy finger
to the map and say, “Sicily,” “Beijing,” “Kalamazoo.”
Big whoop, I thought, peddling home on my blue Schwinn
with baseball cards pinned in the spokes, pausing
occasionally to chuck rocks into swimming pools.
Life was the thin stretch of rope we funambulated
on. Large quantities of Pixy Stix and a bad case
of ADD added up to weekly counseling sessions
with Mrs. Schlozenheimer, school nurse and lunch lady.
“Eat more greens, less Jujubes,” she’d say, depositing
a multivitamin in my palm with one hand, stroking
her fine blond mustache with the other, looking pensive.
Puberty hit us like a barrage of spit wads, and our voices
cracked in unison. We knew the incriminating evidence
of report cards—A for awful, D for damn fine work—
as the world spun like a lopsided basketball
on some enormous finger, leaving us dizzy.
Days lurched past like tired elephants. We longed for
pale blue summer days, sweaty palms and grass stains.
We longed for Becky Kingsley in a two-piece, or even
a one-piece. But geography had me lost. I kept waiting
for someone to point to the map and say, “You are here,”
lines of longitude and latitude wrapping me up like
a safety belt. Did we know the Pathway to Enlightenment?
We knew a shortcut to 7Eleven, and seven ways to
conjugate the verb esperar—to wait. We knew enough
math to realize that the X of desire rarely equaled the Y
of reality. Like equations, we waited for a solution.
Mrs. Schlozenheimer shoveled more coleslaw onto our trays,
her thin purple hairnet holding things in place.