Selfie in a Convex Mirror
It was warm in the sun, but I’m not a lizard
humming winter like a jingle. Instead, we slip
the dishes in bubble wrap and suck
from the rotisserie, asking “Are those jeggings?”
while ducking a drunken roundhouse.
The NSA is now spying for the banks,
but they won’t find my collection of melted
candy bars hidden beneath the mattress.
I’m saving them to use as sticky paddles
when the icecaps melt or as gold medals
awarded at the mental velodrome in Atlantis.
In other words, we’re doomed,
but I hold out hope for creative solutions.
I’m going under, nose plugs at the ready after
misplacing the car keys and photobombing
the panda bear webcam. Collapsing new buildings
is one translation, though you gotta have friends
before you can have frenemies, the cutthroat
bingo players with a single number on their cards
as azalea bushes blaze sapphire blue outside
the cafeteria. I stuck my whole head in them,
and then in your book about linens,
which includes a special section on the rags
used to wipe down deli counters.
Talk about visceral, except I got a tattoo
on my inner ear and the only word I can hear
is jackhammer, even if a story isn’t always
in the telling. Besides, how much
is there really to say about a new puppy?
I wrote this poem on my phone before throwing it
in the toilet, but my head hurts too much
to do the math. This isn’t a footnote—
it’s a leather machine, kinda punky
with ripped spandex and smelling of Jergens.
Yet eventually the creatures close in.
We rattle the locks on the door and bring
the sergeant to his knees, saluting
the ultimate viscosity of it all on his way down.
The luckier ones get to sneak in a pirouette
or field fungos while a marching band
tramples the grass and moves the goal posts
whenever we’re not looking. I could take a pill
for that, cry out to the dark lake with its crackling
along the wire, or a skip-it J.Crew filibuster
that leaves a dent on the tray table jostling
my ribcage, on the trash my mom washes.
No wonder I’m terrified of the oral surgeon
and the stockboys taking their talents
to the stockyards downwind from school.
I set off the fire alarm every time I cook,
watching the luggage tossed into the ship’s wake,
saying I’m so outta here, or maybe just distracted
for a minute, because the only life to love
is this one. Yet sometimes things end badly
and never get repaired; this poem is one example.
Thank god, though, for Dunkin’ Donuts,
where my wife works. There’s a difference
between nonlinear and simply scattered.
I whacked at it for a while with a fish head,
meat still sticking to the bones until
we removed it with our fingers as street sweepers
very slowly trail the last marathoner to finish.
You could call the self-portrait a series
of minor abrasions. Or you could read it
without a mic. And by dog, you could be referring
to a person. The house is set off from a road
being swallowed by the desert
as the afternoon light shines more sideways,
like a constriction in the throat of the sky,
even though it’s our turn to speak.
Alan Gilbert is the author of two books of poetry, The Treatment of Monuments and Late in the Antenna Fields, as well as a collection of essays, articles, and reviews entitled Another Future: Poetry and Art in a Postmodern Twilight.