Issue 2

Year of the Rabbit

 · Poetry

That was the year I read only the major poets
like Jennifer Moxley, W. B. Keckler, and Lisa Jarnot.
I spent summer nights in the woods bare chested
inviting mosquito bites. I tried to work the lines
“Let me show you my thing/I am shaped like a heart”
into every poem I wrote as if it were indicative of
seer transformation. I limited my beverages to lemonade,
freshly squeezed, and water, and lost ten percent
of my body weight. I ate broccoli for the first time
at a Thai restaurant in New Haven with a friend
I saw for the last time. It smelled like a snare drum
with a hint of hi-hat. The friend was fine; she just
didn’t like me anymore. “Whatever’s Cool with Me”
played on the radio whenever I got emotional
and it made me feel like chamomile tea which was
another beverage I permitted myself. When the leaves
fell from the trees that fall, I took the train into the City
to see Elaine Equi read at the Riverside Branch
of the New York Public Library. She talked about making
out with Jerome in the back row at poetry readings
and being asked to leave. I was sitting in the back row
with an old girlfriend. We didn’t make out but we liked
the story almost as much as we liked her poems
and in the end we became boyfriend and girlfriend
again. The new millennium approached us like a twelve-
scoop ice cream sundae called The Challenge.
Prepositional phrases were out like galoshes
as it became clear the winter fashions were all about
lightning and ash, confrontation and fear. I shoveled
the walkway to get to my car and tweaked my back.
Out of work for a week, I read only the major poets
like Hoa Nguyen, Kevin Young, and John Olson.
I learned AppleScript and JavaScript and HTML.
When my back recovered I danced in my living room
like I was thirteen. I rode my stationary bike to
Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine.
I was inspired by Cornel West and Ralph Nader
more than Albert Gore. I entered parts of speech
into HyperCard with which I planned to compose
a revolutionary epic poem I expected no one
to actually read — it was all about the marketing —
but I got bored and called my girlfriend in Boston
every night to hear what was happening in her
creative writing program. It was all metaphor and irony,
meter and consistency of tone, and fawning over
revision, the idea of it, with a dash of voice-finding
and a splash of hero worship. She was getting, I joked,
an M.F.A. in How To Write Like Robert Lowell —
you could leave your Allen Ginsberg in your back-
pack on the floor, and keep your Paul Blackburn and
Ted Berrigan, those mangy shepherds, outside the door.
I wasn’t bitter, though. The winter passed like wine
in a rectory and the Arab spring played out in my dreams
if only I knew all that it meant would be happening.
I burned peas on the stove and my tongue on pizza
on alternating nights, but I was kicking ass
compared to Muammar Gaddafi. My cinéma vérité
was accurate as could be. Every word I wrote down
was absolutely true — metaphorically. And when
I read the major poets like Ange Mlinko, Katy Lederer,
and Kristin Prevallet, I earned their deepest confidence
(my girlfriend sometimes got jealous). They let me know
their favorite scented candles and/or TV shows
and gave me permission to ruminate all evening
on the concupiscence of snow angels. Like Paradise Lost
the twentieth century had been so “object-oriented”
I hoped for the end of check box this and drop-down that,
I hoped for carbon-neutral living with a Jazz Age feel,
I hoped for acoustic punk concertos and intuitive collage
and a fix for the exponential informational cascade,
but the muse stopped calling. I wanted to get paid
so I commuted against the sky each day. The highway
hummed like microwave rice and my car smelled
like scab. Barbarous collar. Eventually I found it
impossible to modify nouns with unlikely adjectives.
My tongue flitted about like a scarf in the wind;
I coughed more than I thought. My exquisite corpse
would be cremated one day, my ashes scattered
in an abandoned construction site after my future wife
forgot them beside the car at the restaurant where
my friends and family adjourned, and nothing I could do
would make that matter at all. The proboscis
in my arm — expecting me to yield — that was the day
I walked into the woods with no shirt on and screamed
at the cheeps, the leaves, the ticks I couldn’t see.
I wanted to embrace the future. I wanted to move
to a new town, to a new home with the woman
I loved, and I wanted to direct a micro-budget film
about a girl who runs away from her abusive father
and negligent mother and hides out in the woods
by the river with a cinnamon bad boy in an astronaut suit
to the tune of “Pink Ribbon Scars That Never Forget.”
I couldn’t do both. I knelt in the dirt, scooped some
in my hands, and rubbed it over my chest. I shut
my eyes to the light, counted mosquitoes in my mind,
and when I got to a hundred I opened my eyes,
twitched my nose, and hopped out onto the grass
where a cold drop plopped down from the sky
and surprised my fur like some mysterious sound.

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