Scientists Dressed Up Rats in Sexy Little Jackets to Find out What Turns Them On

Well, what turns you on?
Let’s forge new frontiers in human sexuality
by showing that jackets are of little consequence or are
everything, depending on whether you have an outerwear fetish,
in which case, Burlington Coat Factory must be for you
a tactile pleasureland or a place of great shame,
or both. Anyway, I wonder what constitutes
a sexy rat jacket and where these are manufactured
and by whom. Is this person given precise specifications
or allowed to just wing it, on the assumption that
we all know a sexy rat jacket when we see one?
What is the average rate of rat ejaculation,
and by how much does it increase when a jacket
enters the picture? Does the rat ever
ejaculate on the jacket? And if so, does
the scientist silently curse the rats,
the jacket, the experiment, the lab, and
whatever life decisions led up to this
sorry moment? Or does the scientist think of
the maker of the sexy rat jacket in admiration
of his or her craft, so well executed and so important
to this research, this careful measuring of conditioned
response in controlled environment, this pinning down
of rat desire, like a moth whose wings still beat?


The Only Mushroom

What do you follow into the woods?
What would you give up to have more flowers?
Which is worth more: five birds or six mushrooms?
Don’t answer until we’ve heard from the mushrooms.
Don’t answer until the mushrooms call your name
early one morning. Maybe there’s only mushroom.
Maybe it’s the only mushroom you’ll ever need.


How to Call Its Name

I have nightmares about Lord Baltimore
even though I can’t picture him, nor
his Lady, nor even her cake. Is it
white, and ramparted with ladyfingers?
Do I remember this correctly? One time
last spring, I saw a Baltimore oriole
in a saucer magnolia tree, which can
also be called a tulip tree, which is
what I always called them until I
found out that a tulip tree is also
something else entirely. It doesn’t
seem fair for a tree to have to
share its name, given that trees
are also expected to share air,
water, sun, space. But anyway,
this oriole was like a shocking
wound of a bird, some horrible
violence in my eye, only because it
was bright orange and my eye didn’t
expect it or know how to call its
name. I kept trying to make it
into a robin, but it never would
become one. It never would become
other than what it was, under its own
name. I’ve come to like my name, too,
and can’t be other than what I am.


Happy Now

Happy now, with a tree opening up,
releasing its scent of the woods,
though this is freighted with guilt —
a whole life created and wasted,
just for a few weeks of our delight.

Happy now, having snipped an entire tub of
Walgreens brand cherry and lime jelly bells
to make cookies that I vaguely recall, though
it’s possible that if I could call my mom,
she’d say, Oh, those. I made them once.
They’re a lot of work, and not very good.

Happy now, listening to the first mega-dose
of Christmas music on the radio, though
there’s a bit too much vibrato for my taste,
a little too much autotune and grandstanding,
and I can already anticipate the fatigue
from hearing that song — again?

Happy now, with my first cup of eggnog,
though I bought the wrong brand. It lacks
real nutmeg and fake rum, and only hits
the easy notes: fatty and sweet.

Happy now. Happy enough.
I think so.


Keep This Pen

You never know when you might need it
to write a check for something big or
to get someone’s phone number or
to give yours, on a cocktail napkin,
or to doodle while you’re on the phone.
Your phone has a cord. People still
write checks sometimes. Men and women,
bright and brave at parties and bars,
still give each other their numbers, on
scraps of paper, like tangible wishes.
You still live — I still live —
in a world that needs a pen, somehow.

Oh, also, WordPress told me this morning that it’s my third bloggiversary. Thanks so much for being here along the way — I think some of you have been reading and commenting from Day One. Wow!


New Mysteries of Your Destruction

Cloves, cinnamon, lavender, and cedar
do nothing to repel the mighty clothes moth.
Able to question your housekeeping in a single bite!
Renders an $80 sweater completely unwearable!
Poison only makes it laugh as you walk around
in an $80 sweater that smells like poison!

What we’re really talking about here is
the clothes moth larva. In truth, we have no idea
what the adult clothes moth does, other than make
more larvae, by the hundreds, by the thousands,
to unravel your life, one garment at a time,
to render you naked and friendless,

to knit their own sweaters around themselves
with their own silk, and then to sleep, to develop,
to prepare for new mysteries of your destruction.


Why Am I Still Here?

Usually, I do one or maybe two of these daily challenge things each year, in which you write one poem each day for a month and then post them if you want to. The rest of the year, I very sensibly hoard most of my poems and post just one per week — the idea being that if I don’t share my entire stash, I will then have an easier time placing poems in literary journals that consider blog posts to count as the dreaded “previously published.”

I was all set to do that as my most recent challenge wound down. But here’s the thing: What am I doing this for (“this” being poetry in general) if not to push myself to do good work each day, to share it with others, and — if I’m lucky — to hear from some people who have read it and want to share their response?

And here’s the other thing: It’s deeply, deeply depressing every time I have to cut myself off from all of that connection. Like, “damages the work” kind of depressing. “The work doesn’t happen” kind of depressing. Like probably a lot of your lives, mine has a lot of moving pieces. Many things are non-optional, and it is all too easy for my writing to become optional — and then cease to happen — when it’s not “for something.”

For a while, I was in a pattern of write a lot/submit a lot. But you know what? That’s not enough “for something.” I can try to fight the fact that for now, anyway, I need the immediate connection of writing and posting here each day — I can shut that down just when I’ve built some momentum and had some really great interactions — or I can just go with it for at least the next little bit.

Here’s the other thing: The blog post/previously published thing is not a universal taboo. Nearly so, but not universal. I know this because not once or twice, but at least thrice, I’ve submitted blog-posted poems — and yes, been honest about it (that’s key) — and had them accepted by literary publications where I like the other work and am proud to see mine.

There’s also the option of thinking in terms of another chapbook. (Oh, hey, here’s my first one, if you don’t already know about it.) In Chapbookland, no one cares whether the individual poems have been published before — as long as the cohesive whole has not.

So, I don’t want to say this is forever, to set the precedent that I will post here daily until WordPress falls into the ocean, but for at least the next month, I’m going to continue this way and see where it takes me — and I hope you’ll come along, too.


Completely Mistaken

Blanket me with your assumptions;
comfort me with broken peace,
misunderstanding as deep
as any wine. What can we do

but be imperfect together?
What can two people ever do
but stagger side by side

for a while,

completely mistaken but
headed in the same direction?


This Time

Let’s get together again
like the first time we never met.
I’ll wear that dress I never owned;
you’ll rip it off with your invisible teeth
while I laugh and laugh in a world without sound.
We’ll walk together on the nothing beach,
nowhere waves lapping at our missing feet,
and we’ll swear (like next time and the last)
that we’ll never ever always feel
the way we don’t feel now.