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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