A lot of things in this poem aren’t true and a couple things are, I hate this kind of poem.
The title of the work, its place in the collective library, the nature of the person who tells us about it, the atmosphere established in the written or spoken exhange, among many other instances, offer alternatives to the book itself that allow us to talk about ourselves without dwelling upon the work too closely.
i. At the low point of my first “real” job (online marketing for hospitals, PHOs and pharmaceutical companies) I drove over to my friend’s house in Green Lane and asked him if I could borrow a gun. He showed me a bunch he had—pistols, some a little bigger, some smaller, mostly black, I don’t remember the names—and I made sort of a pretense of thinking it over and said, hm, not today, he was excited and offered to take me to “the range” and I said maybe some other time. Did that part happen? I don’t think this paragraph happened.
I was and still am a little bit of a coward. Anyway, I would come out of the shower and make a weapon out of the first two fingers on my left hand and the thumb cocked up and put it to my temple and look in the mirror and wonder, am I evil, am I Hell? I’m still subscribed to a fair amount of advertising and marketing e-mail newsletters—I like to look at them when I wake up so that my day will be unhappy and hard like a thumb-nail.
ii. I say to you: “It drives me crazy how slow Microsoft Word is. I need to get out of this house.”
iii. On my birthday in 2008 I read a book of essays by Gerald Stern. I read about how he was shot in the head at a stop-light in New Jersey. I was trying to quit smoking but I was having a cigarette anyway, on the wooden stairs leading out from my apartment to the street. I went inside to look at the poem “Lucky Life.” I came back out. I saw smoke rise up over Norristown past the line of trees, but not my smoke.
iv. On my birthday in 2009 I finally finished Anna Karenina, in a bathtub, at my parents’ house. I didn’t cry at the end. I remember being confused by the part where Levin goes to some kind of congress or political convention—I thought, I’m so close to the end, I can skim this part, it doesn’t matter. And you were there in spirit, waiting in my apartment 25 miles away, reading something yourself, making notes on a page. You’ll point to a print of Velazquez’ Aesop and say the name of a professor we knew. You’ll point to Ming the Merciless, a Flemish diptych, Invocation to Priapus, Jacques Le Grant’s Le livre des bonnes moeurs. We’ll laugh. Oh yeah—Max Klinger, Savinio.
v. I say to you: “I’m hungry. I don’t think I’ve eaten a meal in days.” You say: “Go eat.” I say: “I hate eating alone.” You say: “I often like it.”
vi. On my birthday in 2010 I woke up and finished a book by Jean-Christophe Valtat called Aurorarama which was heavily hyped by bookstores we both knew. I read Monsieur Pain by Bolano. I sat at a table outdoors and read poems by Osip Mandelstam. I read Aeschylus as I saw you park your car and walk up the fake cobblestone path and towards me and I made a note to burn every text on a pyre.
vii. That Christmas Day, I finished In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower at 1:13 AM. I’d made headway waiting in a small lobby on car repairs earlier that week. The free coffee was hot and delicious, much better than I had expected, let’s say, even, infinitely better. A man in a yellow t-shirt kept wincing at the cover of the book. I felt concerned and tender towards the narrator and his friend, Saint-Loup. I felt embarrassed by the man’s scrutiny. My car was fine.
viii. I might use one or several online database programs, Excel, Microsoft Word, or simple pencil and paper to track all this data. You might tell me at which points of which episode of Parks & Rec you laughed and at which points, improbably, you cried, and then laughed at your own tears. I might track that too. Let us imagine all creatures of mythological provenance with the body of one animal and the face of another. Let us review the plot of Berlin Alexanderplatz, every Robin Batman ever knew, the people we knew who are dead or married, the names of dates, the names of plants and molecules.
ix. Oh one I love, ones I love, or loved, hold on five minutes, I’m marking my page or inserting a fat pen between the pages to warp the spine, I’m throwing on a coat or cardigan! Hold on five minutes for the weather to resolve into crisis and advise motion! Let me clean my glasses, and shave! Let me let in the dog and fill her clean tin bowl! Oh ones, all, one or several! Oh y’all I’m going to that brewery on Market Street, you know the one—to eat salmon, and if you meet me there I’ll buy us nachos, if you meet me there I’ll buy you a beer and cry, and fall forward again into the human arms of red trains and burning bushes!
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