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
graduates, we’ll all be Lyfting to work
as the crow flies, descending
from each ridge line in Contra Costa
toward the sea. The primates of the future
will have bigger brains and smaller teeth.
Theologically, you asked for it and
these panicked birds answered. I’m all
alone on this terra firma. Trust me
isn't the sort of thing that high school
buddies get tattoos of. We just need
to slouch here like sworn apprentices.
The staff you handed me had a crook
for trapping snakes and casting shadows.
We couldn’t cast a household
name for the triptych’s last
beheading. It costs a king’s
ransom to pay the pope’s henchman.
The sound of shadow is nothing.
Death crackles. This frostbite appeared by
moonlight, the way North Milwaukee
disappears in South London. We needed
to know the no name we lost
in the first act. Let’s take this from the top.
Bowing and scraping is cartoonish
delivery of one’s head. Curtsy your womb
to the nice man. You can’t tell
whether the Venetian slave is saying hello
forever or goodbye just this once.
The Blue Angels revised the word
for lost comrade. Glasnost follows
Kristallnacht, matins follows vespers,
the night lasts so long they sleep in
two shifts. The season of the lord’s
prayer ended abruptly. You won’t lose
your breath if you hold my hand.
I’ll see you on Snapchat when they add
the Hans Holbein filter. Brooklyn was
an outpost of the Dutch Renaissance.
The next awakening will be tethered
to the last, like tandem horses on TV.
Medieval ladies showed so much neck.
Hold me and hope the trilogy
never ends. Michaelmas follows
Lammas tide. I don’t know what happens
next and I won’t hold my breath. I won’t
stop until these lungs have lost their words.
The wonderworker waits
for weeks. The poet priest
walks on factory walls. You
can’t fathom why wordlessness
is mystery until you marry
two silences. The missed, the most;
the lesson, the lost. The burnt rice
at first sip of green tea this dusk.
On top of Moeser Lane, those
Fogerty boys disappear downstairs
to the rumpus room. When are you
going to use your words? Weregild.
The sound of one hand fiddling.
Shropshire. Hey big spender,
the russet moon of youth was yours.
Why squander honest blood
on blessings learned in books.
She falls like hedgerows over glen.
You married the King of Cups.
Every son’s sins trigger sunset
clause. Break glass. Mrs. Claus,
Mama Bear, Bloody Mary.
Catopromancy is divination
by mirror and words. If you stare
for long enough, you find the future
in a stranger’s eyes.
Above the knees
Turns out the no-hitter was
because of LSD rather than
in spite of. The economic Trinity
is the imminent Trinity and vice
versa. Yeah try catching that house
fly with a spoon next time. These
truths we hold to be evidence
of self: Diogenes’ lamp, Martin’s
cape, Isaiah’s last verse at
the first rap olympics. He spit
his seed in the marketplace
of ideas. Athens is a southern
Madison is a midwestern Austin.
He spit his seed at strangers
and slept with stray dogs, which
make such meaningful eye
contact that our DNA evolved
to better lock stares by moonlight.
Wrap your dark heart around that
love story. I’m trying to read
the catcher’s signals but God made
a flame dwelling in the hyssops.
Our first kiss was in spite of
my creepy look not because of.
Some ancient redhead lurks among
us not within us. I was a slave
to my children until they were
a slave to me. Merovingian
kings carried an old scrap
of cloth into battle. The winner
didn’t always advance to
the next round. Angel Kisses
is next up at the freckled strip
club. I still have the red
bandana we soaked in vinegar
as young men. Daisy sounds
like Bruce Lee preparing to fight
grown-ups. There’s a lot
more to life than blood and words.
You followed me through
town until I wasn’t lost and struck.
The apple doesn’t fall far but
still falls. Your hand holds Yorick’s
head but you’re not scared of old
haunts. I once proposed with the one
ball from the dive bar where we
first met. Before vowing your life,
review recent texts. You don’t need
me to slow down your mistakes,
young man. I hear your heart caught
up with your height. Holy Cow,
Crystal Corner, Crow Bar.
I was unsure whether the two ball
wasn’t a better message. I once
posted Obama holding cue stick:
“Chess player.” Everyone knows
the knight is the wild card.
You were touched by our ruminant
god, dear nephew. The chase scene
was added in the remake but removed
in final cut. I wore a basketball jersey
to play Buck Hunter. Blood shot
is a bad drink but works.
Spud is a name that sticks.
Someday you will find
fulfillment on a long flight
of stairs. I never know when
the evening begins or where it went.
Read more about David Van Etten.