April 12, 2006

we're all here chewing our tongues off
waiting for the fever to break



still from the must see 1973 film the wicker man

Three by Kim Addonizio

Dear Editor

Thank you for your form rejection letter
which I discovered on a small scrap of paper
at the bottom of my SASE.

Editor, I am sorry to inform you
that I cannot use your rejection at this time.
Perhaps another time will be better.

But somehow I doubt it will get better.
My life is full of difficulties
which is why I write poetry,

and this scrap is an added impediment.
Also, it is clear from your writing style
that you have no discrimination;

your prose is impersonal, and so lacks
the distinction of all great art,
though it took you an entire year to compose.

You are like a house filled with tasteless furnishings
with a plastic Sambo stationed on the lawn.
You are a woman in a dress like a sack,

an old man with trousers up to his tits.
You are a retromingent crap weasel
who is possibly only a graduate student

and not a real editor at all.
Therefore I am returning your rejection to you
along with some of my new work

which I think you will agree is my strongest yet,
and whose universal themes you will recognize
from my many previous submissions.

What the Dead Fear

On winter nights, the dead
see their photographs slipped
from the windows of wallets,
their letters stuffed in a box
with the clothes for Goodwill.
No one remembers their jokes,
their nervous habits, their dread
of enclosed places.
In these nightmares, the dead feel
the soft nub of the eraser
lightening their bones. They wake up
in a panic, go for a glass of milk
and see the moon, the fresh snow,
the stripped trees.
Maybe they fix a turkey sandwich,
or watch the patterns on the TV.
It's all a dream anyway.
In a few months
they'll turn the clocks ahead,
and when they sleep they'll know the living
are grieving for them, unbearably lonely
and indifferent to beauty. On these nights
the dead feel better. They rise
in the morning, and when the cut
flowers are laid befor their names
they smile like shy brides. Thank you,
thank you, they say. You shouldn't have,
they say, but very softly, so it sounds
like the wind, like nothing human.

Good Girl

Look at you, sitting there being good.
After two years you're still dying for a cigarette.
And not drinking on weekdays, who thought that one up?
Don't you want to run to the corner right now
for a fifth of vodka and have it with cranberry juice
and a nice lemon slice, wouldn't the backyard
that you're so sick of staring out into
look better then, the tidy yard your landlord tends
day and night — the fence with its fresh coat of paint,
the ash-free barbeque, the patio swept clean of small twigs —
don't you want to mess it all up, to roll around
like a dog in his flowerbeds? Aren't you a dog anyway,
always groveling for love and begging to be petted?
You ought to get into the garbage and lick the insides
of the can, the greasy wrappers, the picked-over bones,
you ought to drive your snout into the coffee grounds.
Ah, coffee! Why not gulp some down with four cigarettes
and then blast naked into the streets, and leap on the first
beautiful man you find? The words Ruin me, haven't they
been jailed in your throat for forty years, isn't it time
you set them loose in slutty dresses and torn fishnets
to totter around in five-inch heels and slutty mascara?
Sure it's time. You've rolled over long enough.
Forty, forty-one. At the end of all this
there's one lousy biscuit, and it tastes like dirt.
So get going. Listen: they're howling for you now:
up and down the block your neighbors' dogs
burst into frenzied barking and won't shut up.

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