David Van Etten Poetry, May 2019
One of our Flapper Press resident poets, David Van Etten, shares his work for the month of May.
Pas de deux
Your head is an abandoned
outhouse filled with bats
came out wrong. I meant to
blurt out the only two people
in this room are laughing-
at me. Bridge vision, tunnel
traffic. I made an interesting
bid at couples counseling
and you said double or
nothing. Daisy makes no
noise when her lungs are about
to cash in. We spent all day
calling things sins except
the coiled worm of aloneness.
Your head is a bower
of birds in a mystery novel
is a little much. Everyone waits
for the blood bath in the grande
pas de deux, the dizzying
sequel to Swan Lake, when
Swazye lifts Baby but we’re afraid
how things will end. They asked
permission to land before leaving
Otis Redding in the water. I didn't
come here to discuss my rapidly
aging parents. I didn’t come here
to bury the lede. In his final coda,
Axl Rose will plead for home.
I see bird songs and hear
stars and we might want to stick
around until I’m done spinning.
Sauce for the gander
We played chicken in a small circle
of upper graders. We went on double
dates and didn’t doubt who wasn’t
with us. Against me, a wall; ahead of me,
my first kiss, followed by several dozen.
Do you remember your childhood
phone number? My butt looked good
in that haircut. Peppermint schnapps,
puppy style, Doogie Howser, record
scratch. You played possum; I didn't want
you to call me teacher’s pet. Let’s meet
at the dips. Lip service, room
temperature. If you drop a few blades
of grass on the warm breeze, you can tell
when to quit baseball. Sauce for the goose,
sauce for the gander. The coyote call
of youth sounds like a wounded rabbit.
The saxophone, a gaggle of journalists.
When you passed away, I was holding a phone
in my back pocket. When I was six,
I didn’t know the difference between on
purpose and on accident. All I knew was
I didn’t push you off the swing.
All I knew was you started paying
attention when I got a girlfriend.
Seven minutes in heaven must be at least
six minutes without eye contact, but everything
after that gets a little fuzzy. It seems like
forever since I saw you disappear into
the girl’s bathroom. Two two six,
four nine two six.
From the neighbor’s yard, you could
attack San Francisco. Some hailstorm
of arrows once chastened the turkey’s
soul. And this darkness falls but the blueness
wanders, so select your switch and pile
the firewood. Any eight-year-old can murder
the box office. See, you smell the flames
in your eyeballs. Bambi is generic
like Kleenex, but the buck doesn’t
and the does don’t. The blueness stops
dead in its tracks. Fear separates
living from livelihood. The ladies roost
high in the trees because those toms aren’t
predictable. Tomorrow never comes
is my favorite song I can never remember.
Kung-fu soufflé is how eight-year-olds
consider cold-blooded killing, but the arc
of the covenant was ultimately aimed
haphazardly. It’s better to ask neither
permission nor forgiveness if you can
pull it off. By the time my sister’s niece