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Issue 10 - A Journal of Letters and Life
Three Poems
by Joe Maynard

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A Poem (Well, a Rant) for My New Wife

Of course I'll love you,
I'm just upset about the squares
You wouldn't know, you're from Transylvania,
but they took over everything...
Like the writing on the walls,
(which are now reduced to ads in subway cars).
Fuming I see: Kenneth Cole's "reaction."
To what? The latest episode of "Friends"?
On the other side of the car, Mayor (Two-Times) Square
has put up a campaign to elect lameness:
"Quit yet?" "Quit yet?" "Quit yet?"
Later I realize he's talking about smoking
but at first, looking at those words on the light over a taxi
between "on duty" and "off duty" I think:
Quit what? Quit work?
Finally, a government program that works for me.
I wish...
A banner over the steps of the
Metropolitan Museum reads:
"Quit yet?" Quit what? Quit art? Yes, I did,
fatigued by the trustfund set always out-spending
me on workboots. But what killed me was
their drugs are too good to be authentic.
They get them from police
who get them from Arkansas.
I think they're genetically engineered
with patent numbers like you see on tomatoes.
So now I can't stomach buying drugs
from a guy playing with a palm pilot
in an SUV with a neck built by Bud-Light,
who rides a Harley every other weekend
to go trolling for hookers
with his buddy from the Port Authority.
Tragedy is: Harleys and now hookers,
God bless 'em, are for squares.

Lucky I married you, sweetie.
You're no square fucker. YOU are:
an authentic Hungarian peasant, pure as royal jelly.
A crystal soul clear as...Evian?
You didn't even know what the Academy Awards were
until Pam told you. "Oh, like Cannes" you said,
then politely refused an invitation to the Oscar Party.
But poor me, in Dante's ring of self-concious brow-beating
trying to convince myself it's cool to write grant proposals.
I think I might even take that class
on career building in the arts.
You wanna move to Prague for six months,
share a flat with 3 Goth musicians from New Haven?
At least take a 5-day marguerita stupor in Whoa-haka,
so I can watch my vomit disappear
over the crest of a wave.
When we get back, I'll grow white-boy dreads,
despite Lee Perry's gray afro,
and buy-up effects machines from the 70s.

But thank you Lord for blind-side accidents,
and you, my most beautiful, loving wife.
I will love you even more once I detox,
and finally understand why straight-toothed American hospitality
puts you on edge.

I would like to tune in, drop out, become square, but now I can't.
I have to keep my job to prove on paper
that I can "sponsor" you, my beautiful bride, and co-opt you
from a career as an ethnic minority.
Some day we'll "save the dollar," or enough of them
to escape into the Carpethians, with a telescope
(read: internet access),
and from a comfortable distance watch petit wars
(oh, there's gotta be a better word in French )
and if we're lucky and close enough
to an eastern European cultural center
(cosmopolitan enough for youth hostels)
we'll compare the goths in their black leather
whipping each other into a rosy-fleshed frenzy,
to the reddish stains of a well used battlefield.

What do I know? I'm just a stupid American square.
Lucky for me, God is merciful to the stupid.

Role Models

"What's wrong with you?" I asked with the earnest curiosity only a ten-year-old could muster. They were shaggy long-hairs from Detroit staying with friends of my parents who ran a Seventh-Day Adventist half-way house called The Bridge. It was doubtful they'd make the cover shot for The Bridge brochure.
     "Our parents -- uh, they were -- like -- uh, concerned," they laughed through crooked grins each adding a couple ill-chosen words to their crooked sentence as if two unsynchronized gears in a poorly oiled machine. "Like real annoyed -- ha, ha -- that like we didn't like -- shit, we just didn't want to -- uh, work." They puffed cigarettes even though we didn't have ashtrays.
     "What do you mean?" I asked staring at the growing length of ash.
     "We're lazy." His abrasive laughter shook ashes onto my mother's carpet. I showed them two chipmonks I had captured in a shoebox.
     "They're Chip, and Dale."
     "Wow, look at that. Fuckin -- Geez kid, they don't, like -- look too thrilled -- naw -- not thrilled kid -- to like -- be in that box!" They laughed for a second then one of them said real serious on an exhale: "Bet they have fleas, too."
     "I know, look." I pressed my fingernail into the fur of one. At first he tried to bite, but I had him in a corner. A flea crawled onto my fingernail and I carefully held it up to the big-boys for display before it jumped onto the sofa.

Rest Stop

We drive up the bend and look back at the reddened trail
behind us, a double line snaking into a forest of eyeballs and breath.

The humid smell of french fries on the dashboard
a sky lit beyond by stars and suburbs.

The night is cracking as if tired of who it is,
The man at the edge of the parkinglot lights a cigarette when you cut the ignition.

Now is the time that dreams are shattered
when you read maps and speak of forks in the road.

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