NewPoetry

Reasons For My Success

Spencer Gordon

 

I was not nice. I was not nice enough. I was not nice enough to the right people. My niceness was too casual; my niceness was designed for acquaintances and so had no lasting impact. I carried out acts of niceness too long ago for people to remember today. I expressed niceness too long ago for those distributing acts of niceness now. I grew weary of niceness in all its forms. I forgot the intention behind my niceness. I was not nice consistently, or deliberately, in public, and so withdrew my general, fit-for-acquaintance-style niceness, a quality ready for all-comers, to a shrinking circle of people I really did care about, for whom I could maintain the energy required of niceness, and for whom my niceness changed character, becoming intimate, or something not quite nice at all. My acts of niceness were spotty, irregular. When I attempted acts of niceness in public I felt strange and inauthentic in growing intensity. My acts of niceness cowed me. I felt hot and ashamed for my expressions of niceness, especially when these expressions were not acknowledged by their recipients. I felt expressing niceness made the objects of my niceness uncomfortable, occasionally, or made these people for whom I was expressing niceness turn against me and categorize me as ‘not nice.’ The people for whom I performed niceness were the wrong people, insofar as they are, today, no longer in positions to perform public acts of reciprocal niceness; or they are not accustomed to expressing private acts of niceness; or they do not possess long memories; or they feel no need to reciprocate niceness, or at least not to me, or to those like me: to people in my predicament. I failed to understand that I was and am not deserving of niceness, per se, or period. I failed to account for all the terrible things I said out loud and in private, usually while intoxicated and happy, thinking I was sharing niceness—for the wasted months and years of my life when being nice was of fundamental importance to me. My acts of niceness, not being public or consistent, made others believe I did not wish to receive acts of niceness myself: that I was somehow above or uninterested in public acts of niceness, when in truth I craved them desperately. I was furthermore not nice in sufficient public and private degrees to people who interpreted my niceness to certain distasteful people as problematic. I was nice to people who are today irrelevant to public consideration; I was also nice to people who are not fit recipients for public niceness, for whom extending niceness was an ethical breach, or a sign that my niceness was too fluid or generous, despite my niceness being of a casual, passing nature, as mentioned. I was not nice enough to people who believe niceness must be parceled out judiciously, selectively, to others who, by fact of their relationship or discipline or social standing, are deserving of public or private acts of niceness more than others, regardless of the overall volume of niceness being expressed. I was not nice enough to those who, through some history of being hurt or abused or drained, considered their own niceness a limited resource. I failed to be eligible for niceness from those who feel acts of niceness are made primarily for public consumption, on momentous occasions, and for a select group only. I was, paradoxically, too nice to make a fuss about those who were not nice, specifically to me, or to others with whom I held acquaintance or even friendship; I failed to reveal my private sense of injustice or hypocrisy, cruelty or betrayal in a public setting, and thus was categorized as someone who was ‘not nice’ (though less ‘not nice’ than if I had expressed the full storm of my emotional life, as then I would be ‘not nice’ to a much more damaging, severe, irreparable degree). I failed to grasp how others could be nice in public to people they deemed problematic or ‘not nice’ or insufficiently deserving in private, and thus I refrained from expressing niceness to those I was hurt or betrayed by systematically, to my detriment. I failed to grasp that acts of niceness made in person are of lesser quality or importance to public acts of niceness made from a great distance, and with far less intimacy. My niceness had limitations fit to my disposition and imaginary sense of self-worth. I failed to sustain the energy necessary for daily, weekly, consistent acts of niceness due to my body’s aging, that stated sense of inauthenticity, a general weariness borne out of failed applications and unnumbered rejections, the demands of dull and pitiless work, and a sense of injustice sprinkled throughout all public gestures. Resigning myself to not being nice, or being deemed ‘not nice,’ or not especially deserving of niceness, felt nice, bizarrely, but only for a few months, after which I again felt it would be nice to feel included in the worldly, public exchange of niceness, but by then it was too late to re-enter with the same enthusiasm or trust as I felt when younger and less experienced with the vagaries of being nice. To measure my lack of suitability for niceness from others I compiled a voluminous list of every person with whom I’d shared an acquaintance, correspondence, and/or friendship, then wrote 3 to 7 reasons beside each, in sharp bullet points, explaining why each person might not be nice to me, why they would not extend niceness to me, and why I deserved this withholding of niceness. This list included those who were closest to me; those who had extended niceness to me in the past, and why they had stopped doing so; and those who had never expressed niceness to me in the first place, and why that was the case and would continue to be so. The work of this list was decidedly ‘not nice,’ and was intensely private and shameful, loaded with painful revelations and remembrances, though it felt nice in the same way a spanking feels nice, or a candle-lit confession, or chores or a punishment or a sentence; the way a failing grade feels nice, or a reprimand at work; the way a traffic ticket or a dressing down by a superior feels nice, but it did not stop me from trying to think of newer, nicer things I could do for people to vindicate myself in their eyes and be the subject, or object, of nice expressions once again, or ever. Where I was headed with this list was an unliftable feeling of ‘not niceness’ in my chest and a ‘not nice’ urge to sob. This list became my vocation, my sole hobby, which replaced my older hobbies and vocational activities that were, to my chagrin, bound up in dense, complex feelings of niceness, equilibrium, fairness, and withheld niceness, and so charged my nights after my ‘not nice’ work was finished with a sense of purpose and clarity, a lack of generalized guilt and a new sterling specificity regarding the shame I felt for myself and my failure to express niceness in adequate degree, quality, and amount. Using my list, and knowing deeply that this was folly, I went on long campaigns of niceness, whereby: regardless of how it made me feel hollow or aggrieved, confused or impotent, I wrote relentless nice messages to people and performed niceness in public spaces, hoping these unrequested and unmitigated acts would cleanse my spleen and guilt, but they did not, for they burnt up like smoke, so to speak, cycling skyward to form billows that were, rather than recognizable in shape, as if emanating from any conscious mind, instead incomprehensible, chaotic; neither nice nor ‘not nice,’ but merely drifting wisps of vapour, empty of content or memory; clear and lovely as a glass held up to clouds filled with rain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AS YOU GO

Guy Gavriel Kay

 

You spent the morning together
at the kitchen table comparing
rucksack, backpack, knapsack
in online dictionaries.

Displacement activity.
He was ready for you to run him
to the airport and away.

You don’t send a child into the world:
that presumes too much,
makes it about yourself.

He’s doing this. Choosing to travel
a long way for a long time.
And yes, you did the same years ago.

That’s part of the feeling today,
memories overlapping the moment.
The way time runs but is always circling.

His pack weighs less than yours did.
Back then travel books and a sleeping bag
and a metal frame…

and you can still remember
how your parents looked
when you said good-bye:

welcome to that.
Live on the other side now.
Images of your own first time
abroad are shockingly vivid,
so easily summoned back.

You know he’s confident
(don’t be too much so),
alert, open to experience,
unafraid to be alone.

He knows he has limitations
in what he’s seen and done
and wants to push those back,
and you want this for him, fiercely.

Your heart is wide open
this morning to the wish
that good things
come to him out there:

people, places, days and nights
being built towards a life
to look back upon
(stay safe).

But that same heart
you feel to be opening now
will miss him the way
a person misses air

when they hold their breath,
watching someone
crossing a high wire,
far above the ground.

Godspeed my child, the world
is wild and wide, but not
to be feared because of this.
Know you’re loved. Know it as you go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WANT TO GET MARRIED BEFORE I START LOSING ORGANS

Lauren Turner

 

Reapply my lipstick with a prayer to keep me heart shaped.
……..My dearly beloved is a red red cherry.

My cherry never popped. A boy’s hand plucked out its stone
……..behind Babylon. I was 19 then grew

slick with pussy blood, whirling into a knock kneed scramble
……..for any taxi’s plush derrière.

From another’s open mouth, his greedy hand would beckon
……..to Mike. My modern day amoureux

is named Michael. It’s a trash bin coincidence, a lil O-faced gasp
……..leaving red on the globular fruit

I teethe, lovingly. My soft naïve bits were harvested like organs
……..and later went stalked

by tumors, suiciding what’s left. Still, born love is red and exists
……..in menstrual blood, every time

we seed to create nothing. Sway my blanched hips underneath
……..scuzzy satin, I’m effervescent at burst.

That’s how we know it was special. My red red lipstick takes a gun
……..of cigarillo, letting you into the secret

alley where Mike bleeds me out of me, on repeat, with every man.
……..I never could flesh myself anew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Sweep the Steps on Monday

David O’Meara

 

The future is needy.

All that hope.

Last week
it desperately wanted what this week’s
only background,

patchy developments yet to come.
Carry me around, I said

fetal in the duvet.

Outside, I pause below
clouds playing shadow-puppets on radar,
the air dark with radiance
like the nave in Sainte-Chapelle.

_______

A short climb to domestic views.
The sky jams the tree in its scrapbook.
One branch, like a witch’s finger,
scrapes the metal siding,

knotted knuckle keening in wind.
I push tumbled twigs about,
the hibernated slurry,
leaves, dust
and litter’s dregs, disassembled
fractions

of something whole we used
up and threw away.

New stalks breach rolls of soil
like a burst couch.

_______

My porch. My staff and straw.
My six treads down.
My peninsula amid compost bins,
sidewalk, chrysanthemum and linden, this
provisional mount to my works
and days, each plan
a false trail
where I play a poor man’s Hesiod

left to wait
in this shoe-gazer’s almanac
remade by the age
of Big Oil and plastic.

_______

Panic seems to live in my ear,
plus the radio

and a revving at the stop-signs.

I shift the piles, spray the lids,
curse drudgery,

but out here, free at least
from click-bait.
A squirrel’s eye
radars over movement’s
could-be predators, if only to outlive
the imminent, heavy rain.

The past, with its exhausted magic,
needs us too.

All façade, the gutters drip
and a Google search shows nothing.

I step toward the porch
and hold the storm between shattered
blades of light.
A predicted front
will pass this way, still completely startle,

and this day will have me for its dinner, or let me go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prime Time Horror Story

Paola Ferrante

 

When they report about abandoned car seats used
to lure female motorists to a location next to
a wooded or grassy field
I know the way the story’s going like

little girls will go
through bloody mary
in the bathroom
mirror. Every time she looks
she sees scratches from

what the man looking in the window would pull out
of his pockets, not being sure if he wanted her
blood all over
him.

Later on it’s the man upstairs
where they say a woman’s place is
in the home calling to say

have you checked
the children why haven’t you
aren’t you
glad you didn’t turn on
the light

from the t.v. See what’s happening in America.
There’s a man with a hook hand
ready to tear off her roof
same shape as a coat hanger
used down a back alley;

the man will always say he’s concerned with the state
of the children. Doesn’t he know she’s heard it
before, way back from the babysitter around
a campfire where little girls are always told
the killer is right
inside the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ecstatic Temporality for Dummies

Matthew Tierney

 

Hat brims, lapel pins, taupe vests.
The class of portrait photographers
with vintage cameras
hops around me, my pint, the patio.
A single robin settles on a point of view.

Idealists ask grandiose questions.
Realists spring a pop quiz.
Like, when stranded on a desert island,
with what material and how large
should one spell out HELP?

Seconds, days, years,
we feel them pass psychologically.
Brain scientists can now use
reverse psychology
to transport you to the Roaring Twenties,
the Left Bank, Boulevard Saint-Germain—

Probably not your idea of a good time.
Forget I said anything.

Applause.
(One hand encounters the other.)

A ladybug plays dead on
the coast of my dampened coaster.
A plane burbles above my big wobbly head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Young Money

James Lindsay

 

We want more brightness than money can imagine.
— Timothy Donnelly, “Dream of Poetry Defense”

This poem is an attempt at learning
how to wear flip-flops with confidence

around the oddball hub where acceptance
has begun to slowly settle in. Acceptance

in the understanding that this is home now
and will remain home for as long as it takes

the hazmat team to retard and tame the bed
head of fibrous crystals, promising cancer,

lurking in the nooks only contractors know.
Where privet money and imagination begin

to dim—childless as this space is—noon
is when first classes will start settling in.

Lesson One: exposed toes are much more
vulnerable to bloody stubs. Care for them

like a litter of hatchlings, otherwise, seeing
as there are no children here, watch out

for them with the vigilance of the young
money, who leave lights on in the hundred

rooms of this mega-mansion, ignoring
hydro bills higher than devout iowaska

decibels or burnouts hidden in the shadows
of dark parks, who’ve saved their allowance

to seek a new sound source, a heavy twang
with a tendril on the dimmer switch, an eye

out for subtle changes in the light, the same
old disagreement between dawn and dusk.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Epistemology of Balloons

Steve McOrmond

 

The boy trudging with his mother
along the windy street is little
and the bouquet of helium balloons
he’s sea-anchored to is very large
and cumbersome. Fine motor skills
are a work in progress. So far, most things
have wanted to stay put or else
to crash down with a satisfying thud, but these
bright orange balloons have minds
of their own; they twist and tug at his grip
on their strings – any moment they might
lift him into the air. The thought
produces a muddle of pleasure and terror
he’ll wait years to put a name to.
Anyone can guess what happens next, but
to the boy, it comes as a big surprise: The sky
took my balloons! Away they go, over the roofs
toward a blue gap between high-rises
and building cranes that angle
like giant pinball paddles. If they don’t
snag and go pop, they just might make it
all the way across the lake, coming down
in Buffalo or Rochester, but you wouldn’t
wish that on anyone or anything, not even
a balloon. Were the mother to speak,
her words would come out strange. Hold on
tight is a rule of thumb, but sometimes
a lighter touch is required. The boy’s
exaggerated gasp as good a response as any.
Once in a while (don’t count on it),
what has been taken is returned
to us. They’re huge! The snowflakes
that have just now begun lazily to fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOUTHFEEL

Adam Dickinson

 

……………Catenibacterium mitsuokai
……………Bacteroides

The tongue map
is wrong.
There are buds down

to the commonwealth.
What was the bliss
point of African blood

in the table sugars
of Europe?
Every year,

spinach produces
a sugar
in its leaves

comparable
to the world’s
annual output

of iron ore.
Without hurting
the taste, a young child

can stand
to keep a hand
in cold water

longer
with a sweet mouth.
The faster starch

converts to Christianity,
the quicker each outreach
over police radios.

O my sweet tooth,
my oatmeal raisin,
my poisoned tipped

candy apple cart.
Pleasure from food
is the air waving goodbye

in heat,
distorted
like an inherited empire.

In this way,
we are closest
to people who touch

what we eat.
Captives of loneliness
stare into icing.

I know enough
about the cherry on top
to lick around the sides.

 

 

NOTE

“Mouthfeel” responds to microbial changes caused by the Western diet. High sugar and high fat have resulted in gut microbiomes commonly dominated by the phyla Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. This poem concerns sugar specifically. While its precise effect on the Western diet remains unclear, there is research that suggests the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes is influenced by sugar intake. In particular, the abundance of Catenibacterium mitsuokai and Bacteroides appear to be affected. I found these microbes inside my body after analysing my microbiome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BELLS

Gary Barwin

 

stars originate from
the same place as bells
what should I be thinking about?
apparently May 6th
is World Naked Gardening Day

if a school were a uterus
someone writes
the politicians would protect
the children inside

a cupped hand
a mouthful of water
snowball the shape of a hand

 

after 9/11 I remember writing
something sarcastic
intended to be Zen
a poem about not being able to find a sock
I pissed off the poet
George Murray

but I realize it’s true
anytime I’ve lost a sock
someone’s being shot
even when I haven’t lost one

 

once my son went with my in-laws and the rabbi
to the lake
Tashlich: dropping bread into water
casting off sins

why am I doing this
my son said don’t believe in it
what about making the world better?
the rabbi asked
yes my son said yes

my son and I
late autumn
walking under the golden leaves

on my desk
a stapler, paperclips, some books
laptop open to American news