by Sandra Simonds
Today, I think I can do this for you; I can make this box for you.
I don khakis, the attire of the capitalist order.
The workers valued revelation and the gospel which means
“good news” in Old English. Spilled Frappuccino on pants, cried,
“Oh no! Oh shit!” Then went down the soldiers of 33rd Punjabis of the British
Indian Army in khaki. I don the depicted details, the place where one
must implant some cultural memory. I am the third
remove, unheard, unheeded so today I think I can make a glass
box for you, call it a cube. She said maybe you’re in love
with your friend and I said I think I can do this for you.
I loved my friend but he loved someone else and I was very pregnant
with another man’s baby. The early martyrs watched the fires
set by the emperor’s own agents. I was teaching
the humanities again. My friend flew across the country
to visit his lover. I had to breastfeed, commute, buy gallon
after gallon of milk. Read: this is just the diary of
an ordinary woman or “mom” living at the beginning of the 21st
century. Dura-Europas, the small garrison town is really
a cubicle and you are typing a poem by Hopkins into the screen
of the 21st century. When you feel hours, you mean years.
When my friend told me he was in love with someone else,
my thoughts turned to Greco-Roman models
for inspiration. Also, the letdown
of milk since the body is relentless. A troll on Twitter.
It was snowing on all the arches, on the atrium, the four
chambers of a chicken’s short-lived, factory-style heart.
The word “psalm” comes from the Greek word “to pluck
a lyre.” Maybe I can address you now. My husband
will be furious. Coward. Liar. A voice says, “Alice, why did
you have another baby?” Exercise:
reread the Ten Commandments.
Could you suggest other
commandments for inclusion in a modern version?
Day went down. I wrote a love poem.
Then monotheism, belief in ethics, a covenant
with god, and the bible’s influence. I throw my bills,
unopened, into the recycling bin. The workers
and the rise of universities. A friend tweeted endlessly
about boners and blowjobs. I bought her book.
My husband said, “Alice, you really crossed
the wrong stripper.” I felt the willpower to work slip.
The workers rushed into the gothic, the logic flowing
like togas or lava. Ventura. Some felt pain. Some felt Vesuvius.
In The Classroom of Henricus de Allemania
at the University of Bologna, note the sleeping student
at the lower right. Or does he weep? And why are his
fingers so ladylike? Is he really a woman? Does my
friend know I want to hold him? Iceland approves
crowdsourced constitution. To explain, preach
and dispute. We rearrange the mind in downward flight.
I have nothing to say to you.
I am a professor of some kind. I am a worker
of some kind. I am a mother of some kind.
I cannot see you. I am in debt. I can see you.
I am teaching a humanities course of some kind.
I want very badly to talk to you. I am in debt.
I am writing this for you but even the language
between us is a critique of these mental pyrotechnics.
I want my professorial chair! I want to dazzle you
with my technique! I am in debt.
I want to feel this longing for you but
I am tired. Speak directly to the saint.
The dream Dante has of the eagle that swoops
his little body from the Middle Ages and places it
into a burnt-out Best Buy. Ventura highway
in the sunshine? Love inside the slow,
steady decline of the torqued empire, our abstractions
intensified. To be totally oriented to “the next life” or
to think of your eyes, so shaken
when I saw you last. I thought you had written this poem
for me and for a moment I felt very alive.
Turned off the pop song, its fumes everywhere.
On the way back from work bought milk, advised
the dear self not to. I cannot act. The troll said I was old
and ugly. I laughed, thought about suicide. The week of visions
rhymed with the work week. Out of the outfits
I wore on the red carpet, which one looks best?
The workers walked into the City of Ladies to buy
bags of chestnuts and figs and it snowed.
Shopkeepers, brides, prostitutes and peasant
women. My daughter is twelve pounds.
This is the diary of a minor poet, a “mom” living
at the beginning of the 21st century.
We—the workers and also my lover and my husband
as well as the man who rejected me, pulled back
the curtain to find a wall. Then I wasn’t so sure I was being
rejected. My lover texted me, “we need to talk,”
I ran ten miles, cooked a vegetarian lasagna for my husband,
bought a pirate costume for my son.
“The Indian Ocean is in Chicago,” my son said.
If I don’t correct him, I am a bad mom, bad sister,
bad daughter, bad philosopher-king.
If Plath had had a Malibu beach house,
she wouldn’t have killed herself.
I will walk through the double doors of the century
with all of the other workers. Red Rover,
Red Rover. We hold one another. I will lead
them to victory. I am “a fighter.”
And on the page representing February, the farm workers
are warming themselves inside the cottage and the sheep
huddle together outside, but the thing the viewer most
identifies with is the girl with steamy breath on the far right,
stumbling back through the snow
and the frozen village in the far distance.
Poem first published in Columbia Poetry Review no. 27, and Steal it Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015).
About the Author:
Sandra Simonds is the author of Steal it Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015), The Sonnets (Bloof Books, 2014), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012) and Warsaw Bikini (Bloof Books, 2008). Her poems have been anthologized in the Best American Poetry 2014 and 2015. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Granta, American Poetry Review, The Chicago Review, Fence and elsewhere. She is an assistant professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia.