Got this poem by Julian Weise last week via PEN’s poetry email list. I signed up in the first place because I found out that Ben Mirov was curating it and I like his work. So far everything they’ve sent I’ve liked (Jefffrey Yang, and before that Cynthia Arrieu-King), but I didn’t have much to say about any of them. Then this one came in:
poem for his ex-girlfriend by Jilian Weise
So what’s up? Where are you these days?
Last I heard you worked at a bakery.
Last I read your poems were lower case
with capital content. I used to like
to read them in the dark. It’s weird
you’re not his girl anymore.
You were the picture in a snow globe
on his desk that I’d go to, shaking,
when he left the room. That room.
Do you remember it? The Dr. Seuss
sheets read: “This is not good.
This is not right. My feet stick out
of bed all night.” We tried not to talk
about you. When we had to do it,
I made him go to a dyke bar
so everyone would be on my side.
In my mind you were so good
at everything, like walking.
I asked him if you had two legs.
What was I thinking? Of course
you have two legs. I asked him,
I guess, so that the possibility
of me would exist. He said yes
as if he was ashamed to admit it.
Does it make you feel better
to know he cheated with a handicapped
girl? I wonder if you have
any handicapped friends.
I don’t know why I’m using that word.
It demoralizes me. Or if you don’t.
Or if you’ve seen somewhere,
maybe in the bakery, a woman
with a limp and felt sorry.
Once in the dyke bar he said
he was waiting for you to
stand on your own two feet
and it was hilarious to me,
though it was a serious conversation,
so I could not laugh.
We never talk about you now.
It’s not allowed. We have to act all
I always liked you and thought
you were cool
and when I get to missing you
I pretend you’re in the room
and you forgive me and say
you always knew.
After thinking, I like this, I immediately thought wait – Why do I like this? It’s interesting how it moves from – oh this is funny an irreverent handicapped joke – to oh, wait this is serious – to – this is fucked up – and then – but it’s not.
I think confessional – and this seems to be – has been prohibited for me for so long, that now I find irresistible. I am wowed by we and I and bad crap like cheating and whatever else you got.
This is also, as the title would suggest, a variation on break-up poem, most probably from a young woman’s perspective. I just can’t seem to get enough of them, which is odd because I’m a middle-aged male. Also this is exactly the kind of person I would never want to meet, much less date, or do anything of that nature with. So why do I want to convene with this voice I have so much trouble with? I think it’s kind of exotic for me to imagine this. I never really knew many girls like this, certainly not intimately. Affect was not cool in Old New York, nor was self-deprecation or irony, and I guess I like those things. Or I hate these things/people so much that I enjoy reading about them.
For example, I really liked Ariana Reines’ Couer de Lion, even before I started regularly reading poetry. (That reminds me that my copy of Couer de Lion is in a friend’s place in downtown Bogotá. I better get it back before it disappears.) The book is this long poem about finding out her boyfriend is cheating on her, when she hacks his g-mail account. The boyfriend is a really wealthy guy. Of the two, I think Reines has the bigger asshole ex-boyfriend. The ex-boyfriend in Weise’s poem seems at least open-minded.
(Upon reading this a sixth time, note to self: get Weise books and fix your spelling.)
(Postscript: Coeur de Lion came in the mail hours after I posted this. My friend mailed it to me. That´s a strange coincidence.)