Poem Notes


My real parents, the clowns, wanted their clown baby back. I demanded proof… The lights dimmed, and there, in the center ring, the spotlight illuminated my clown parents. I hugged my mother and my father, and then my mother again, tightly. I didn't know what to say to her, how to tell her that I loved her. I picked up my small blankie and my stuffed cat, and walked slowly down to my clown parents. —Jennifer Garrison Stuber

It is not enough to tell you they were sad,
or you were sad, or we were sad enough
for all the wrecked egg of a world, for the sight
of wilted elephants standing in a circle
and the Always Groaning Armless Man
who keens Mariah Carey songs underneath
his knapsack that looks sort of like another head.

I don’t regret the sight of myself in sunlight,
painted splotches that mean emotion on
my face to you. Spotlit I am something special,
all glow and happenstance and superpowered
hunger. Also action. There is this glory in emaciation.

I am your new favorite bird, the one you leave
when it gets dark and the world has cooled
to the temperature of soot, the one you leave suet
out for in the cold after everything with longer wings
has set out for the South.
                                              And if the squirrels
cannot scale the pole for food because of your baffling contraption—

And if they whirl and trail frustrated figure-eights
in the snow that will only last another
couple hours before sublimation,
I am undeterred by your revulsion,
your recreation, those awful shellacked
popcorn decorations you spike your Christmas
tree with every year. I’ve seen those too, through glass
and snow and years of training to see through clouds,
locked doors, and drywall with my mind, scarves tied
around my eyes, my heart as crystalline
                                                                        as dolomite.

As such, I have zero interest in your pity,
in your prettiness and dripping eaves,
the outside of your frosted glass that keeps
you from my heaving breast at night, that keeps
my breath from curling in underneath
the weatherstripping and becoming
corporeal while you sleep.

You think you’re something separate from the whorl,
a gleaming satellite, affixed above
all our dreams, but you’re the undeveloped
photographs that persist past memory
in our disposable cameras. What you
don’t know is this: all the world is filtered
light and trash beneath the bleachers; all the world
is tilt and crash and power loss (though let’s come
out and call it love) and circumstance, or: all
the world is interruption, terrorface in gaslight,
just before it bursts.



No words from this text are on the quiz. You might as well know that now. Instead there will be short answer questions in which you'll be asked to discuss the psychology of the clown baby, the etymology and appropriateness of beotch, the film Dolomite if not the mineral, and the importance of pop culture references littering poems, not to mention the usefulness of this sidebar. Discuss. Does this pop-littering make the poems over within a decade, or within the confines of living memory or compilations of 80s songs even if great bands like Crowded House get littered in there as if they were simply an 80s band like the inexplicably-named-and-popular Kajagoogoo? Does this technique require a Modernist's Norton annotation? A set of clickable links? Does it make itself, the poet, or yourself cooler than you were before? So what if you don't know Mariah Carey? Will we always know Mariah Carey? (Who is Mariah Carey?) Or is that making a point about how quickly our world in all of its availability engulfs the former world, shedding information every moment into blackness?

I did edit out a stanza featuring a lot of crapping penguins on the recommendation of nearly every reader who has read this poem. There's still a scar on the poem's dermis where it was omitted.