To the girl behind me in line at the supermarket
Whose shopping list consisted entirely of
Sourdough and sour gummi worms
I wish I’d thought to ask you
If you were making
To the girl behind me in line at the supermarket
I hate you, woman in yellow
For all the terrible things you never did
And all the horrible flaws you never showed
And all the wretched words you never said
But most of all for when, as you walked along the sidewalk
You made a skip of joy, for no apparent reason
And kept walking
Unaware of the damage you’d done by making me notice you
Stepping out of the crowds of invisible millions
And forcing me to realize that I didn’t know a single thing about you
No foul habits to let me ignore you
No rude speeches to let me deplore you
No cruel misdeeds to let me abhor you
Nothing to remind me that you, like I, are human
And you, like I, will lie, cry, spy, defy, deny, crucify, mortify, falsify, dissatisfy,
And one day die, and feed the flies
You gave me nothing to put you out of my mind.
You were, are, will be
A perfect stranger
And I could have forgiven you anything
Anything but strange perfection
I cannot forgive you.
I can only try
The snow goes
As the snow does
(Does doesn’t rhyme)
The snow does, that is to say, the female counterparts to snow bucks
Make footprints all along the way
While I get up and resume
(Resume doesn’t rhyme)
Resume, that is to say, create a list of my work history and credentials
So I may travel ‘cross the globe
In hopes of finding a great job
(Job doesn’t rhyme)
Job, that is to say, a person with unyielding patience in the face of suffering
Who could last an entire summer
Bearing trials without number
(Number doesn’t rhyme)
Number, that is to say, more desensitized to pain
Feelings growing in his head
Unafraid to take the lead
Lead, that is to say, the chemical element with 82 protons in its nucleus
Paint from off his old lawn mower
The effort turning him rank as a sewer
(Sewer doesn’t rhyme)
Sewer, that is to say, seamstress, that is to say, actually a person of any gender who decides they want to take up sewing because it’s a relaxing and productive hobby, and who are you to impose your gender stereotypes on entire words?!
(Whoa, settle down there, Ogden Nash)
No, you settle down, parenthesister! You’re not even real! You’re just a gimmick I’m using to very poorly hide the fact that I have nothing significant to say!
(I’d say that hurts, but then, you are just putting these words in my mouth, so…)
Exactly, so why don’t you stop judging me!
(Oh please, tell me you’re not doing another ‘I write poems for me, not for you’ poem. You did that, like, five posts ago, and it was already hackneyed then.)
I am not! And it was not! Was it? Ah, I don’t care about your opinion…wait, crap…
(Are you just sending your poem through ever-deeper levels of deconstruction meat grinders to cover up your complete lack of confidence in your own artistic ability?)
(Calling attention to any recognizable pattern or habit or cliché you rely on, trying to forestall criticism by criticizing yourself first?)
(That’s pretty chickenshit, man.)
Well, now you’re doing it too.
(Point. But we all know it’s just you talking with yourself here. The dialogue conceit’s just an attempt to make the whole thing come across less self-indulgent. Which, by the way, isn’t working. And yes, I know I just did it again. Old habits.)
So what now?
(Well, you could do what you always do when a poem starts to make you feel uncomfortable: tack a too-hastily-applied punch line on to the end. Turn the whole thing into the literary equivalent of a fart joke. You’re already setting it up, I can tell. You just want to reassure everyone that this was all just part of your creative persona, that these internal monologues only last for a couple minutes at a time, pretend that you won’t spend hours obsessing over whether or not to put the accent marks in résumé.)
That has been bugging me.
(Just let it go. Nobody who matters cares.)
So what’s the other alternative?
(You can stick it out. Talk through your doubts and self-loathing. Work out your personal demons and accept that it’s okay to let your guard down. It’s okay to let people see you broken and scared. It’s okay to admit that you need help.)
Yeah…I could do that.
(Yes, you could.)
(So? What’s it gonna be?)
Hey! It’s Banned Books Week! Last year, I swore that, for Banned Books Week, I would read Fifty Shades of Grey.
I would like to point out that I never said I would read it quickly.
But I did finish it, and here, as promised, are the best worst sentences I could find. Some are NSFW, obviously.
* * *
“I am all gushing and breathy—like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the state of Washington.”
“I wrap my arms around myself and turn to face the road and note with relief that the green man has appeared.”
“Drinking in the cool evening air in the parking lot makes me realize how drunk I am.”
“The elevator whisks me at terminal velocity to the twentieth floor.”
“Pulling off his boxer briefs, his erection springs free.”
“I stare down at my fingers, knowing that I am turning puce.”
“Holy crap…just-fucked pigtails do not suit me, either.”
“Christian Grey just sent me a winking smiley…Oh my.”
“Ho, my subconscious mouths at me.”
“‘I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia.'”
“I smile involuntarily as I recall being in his arms as he spun me around his living room, so unexpected, and he has my panties somewhere.”
“He moves the glass again and leans down, kissing me and depositing a small shard of ice in my mouth with a little wine.”
“…from makeup remover to soothing balm for a spanked ass, who would have thought it was such a versatile liquid.”
“‘Contrary to what your roommate believes, I’m not a priapic monster.'”
“‘The woman who brought me into this world was a crack whore, Anastasia. Go to sleep.'”
“My subconscious has her Munsch’s Scream face on again.”
“Fuck, this is sexier than the toothbrush. “
“His breathing is mounting, his ardor…Holy cow—his erection…we’re in a field.”
This article makes me irrationally angry.
It’s an article from my local paper. It tells about hundreds of local citizens lining up on a Thursday morning.
What were they lining up for, you ask? Was it the midnight release of a new dystopian space wizard movie? Free food for a year? A magical boutique that appears one day out of every thousand to grant its customers their deepest desires?
Just a Kroger.
People ask why I hate living in Indiana, and stuff like this is pretty close to the top of the list. I live in a state that is so drowned in ennui that not one, not dozens, but huuuuuundreds of people think a grocery store opening is the be-all, end-all of the human experience.
Oh, what’s that? I’m sorry, I misspoke. It’s not just a Kroger, it’s a suuuuper-Kroger! It’s a Kroger the size of a Walmart! I could understand the impact that might make if there wasn’t a Walmart one literal mile away. And if Walmarts and their ilk didn’t have the general ambiance of concentration camps for frozen TV dinners.
And I don’t hate Kroger. Kroger is fine. But that is absolutely all it is. There is no good reason to be outside a Kroger when it is not open, unless they are promising shopping carts full of free food, or Jesus himself is offering fantastic deals on fishes and bread loaves of questionable origin.
If anyone asks, this is the definitive answer to ‘Why can’t we have nice things?’ Because you don’t want nice things! You pee your pants with glee over grocery stores! Not even new grocery stores, but slightly bigger versions of grocery stores that used to be half a mile up the road!
This is why music and art and interesting restaurants and creative entrepreneurship are dead in Indiana. Why would you try your best to make something great, when all the people here want is another fucking Kroger?
I’ve always had a soft, unspoken, karmic view of life
Though never voiced, it’s always burrowed down inside my mind
But as the law of averages applies to joy and strife
A different philosophy is what I’ve come to find
For long I’ve thought that doing bad will always make you sad
Convinced that happy moments come from doing what you should
But every good decision’s on the path to moments bad
As much as every bad one leads to every day that’s good
Oh, I like to write a poem
When I feel that I’ve been being
Altogether far too useful
So as to be very careful
Not to send the wrong idea
If you get into the habit
Of, to other people being
A supremely useful fellow
Then they’re likely to expect it
Any time that they should see ya
So if people start depending
On the rate of your production
Wreck assumptions with a poem
It is guaranteed to throw ’em
Like a bop upon the nose
But if now they cry for poems
And demand that you continue
To supply, ad infinitum
You must jar them off quite firmly
With a helpful bit of prose explaining that while you appreciate their patronage, the level of dependency they show is a trifle alarming, and that while escapism is fine, no artist can ultimately provide the sense of meaning that we all strive for, that to do so would, in actuality, be an unfair replacing of the audience’s sense of self with that of the poet or playwright or songsmith, and that, in the end, everyone will let you down, be it friend or family member or favorite author, but you cannot use that as an excuse not to seek connection, only to be aware that all will, in time, fail you, and furthermore, that an author does not write for his audience, but for himself, which of course, is seven soggy pounds of horseshit, because if he wasn’t writing for an audience, he wouldn’t be writing at all, just sitting around thinking all day until he shriveled up from malnutrition, but what it actually means is that the author or poet or screenwriter, though writing for you, is not necessarily writing to please you, but may seek to challenge you with uncomfortable concepts, exercise your feelings with emotionally-wrenching imagery, or galvanize you into action through lack of closure, but ultimately, to express his or her unique self to you, and that can’t be changed or adapted to meet some larger consensus on ‘the way people ought to be’ because we are all different, as different as one snowflake is from another, only more so, because snowflakes at least share the commonality of being delicate crystals of frozen water, and we are hairless mammals with different heights, weights, skin colors, hair colors, religions, political views, sexual orientations, histories, preferences, fears, birthdays, genetic predilections, flaws, and glories, so of course we’re going to come to heads, of course we’re going to disagree, of course we’re going to marshal armies and wage wars and drop bombs over the proper way to break boiled eggs, but the reason we write poetry, the reason we paint portraits, the reason we make books and movies and songs and television shows and podcasts and video games and Facebook posts and blogs and tweets and Youtube videos and operas and fan fiction and tiny sculptures made out of paper clips, the reason we live and breathe and eat and fuck, the reason for all of it is found in those split-second moments where unlike meets unlike and finds something in common, says ‘I see you, I know you, I am you,’ and that’s all there is to it. All there is. Now it’s your turn.