Thursday, January 26, 2012


A couple years ago, a journal (I forget which one) put out a call for entries for an Ambrose Bierce-like 'Devil's Dictionary.'I sent a couple in and never actually heard back from them, so I'm assuming they didn't want them. I tried to emulate Bierce's style, which perhaps came off as here's what I wrote:

Hope, n. A system of emotional credit in which the fruits of feeling are spent before the currency of accomplishment has been earned.

Truth, n. A very appealing lie often employed in discourse as a substitute for a sound and compelling argument. Spelled with a capital “T” to distinguish it from the more common lies.

* * *

Here are a couple poems I wrote about encounters with uber-religious types. Neither really seems to work. Too preachy, maybe. I'm still tinkering with them.

You Push I Push Back

The ex-priest spoke of women in the third person
to their faces, took us on a tour of churches of New
York, where the squirrels are segregated and rudeness
is considered style. He finished eating before we’d
even sat down. He was an old teacher of my wife’s father
and adored the man. When we walked in the door after a five
hour drive, he stood us in front of the piano to sing; “Start
again,” he’d say. “I don’t see how you could like anyone
who doesn’t like me,” my mother in law said to her husband,
who lost the smile he’d worn since we’d arrived.

The Other

It was the fat preacher who made us afraid
with his stories of shameful creatures
who shared our names. It was his dirty smile,
his greasy hair, the stains on his lapel
that made us uneasy when he talked about clean
souls. It was his belligerent children with torture
in their eyes who made us doubt his understanding
of the role of a father, in heaven or otherwise.

He told us to doubt ourselves, to trust the absurd
notion that life is anything other than joy and pain
and random collisions of matter. They’re coming
for us, he said. I’d be afraid to think, if I was like you,
he said; I might think something wrong.

* * *

Last one for today: another poem I might be giving up on.

Your Cousin is Lying

I never went cow-tipping, though once, Stephen
wasn't looking and backed into a sleeping one,
which got up, moved away, and sat back down—
because cows sleep bellies to the ground,
that's horses you're thinking of that sleep standing.

I never made moonshine, though I admit,
my father did, but that was at least a decade
before I was born. We smoked meth. Or pot
or drank stuff we filched from our parents' liquor
cabinets or coolers. We made things from eye drops
and allergy meds. We huffed glue. We sucked
aerosol cans. Why grow it, process it, hide
it when you can buy it? We're not farmers
anymore. We work at Wal Mart. We get discounts.

I never lynched anybody, but we shot each other
same as you do over the color of our
clothes and the contents of our
wallets. I dated black girls—well, I would've
if they'd have had me.

I'm just as educated as you: I've seen the same TV shows, sat
through the same droning lectures
based on the Prussian model.
If you were from here. you'd know;
it's just like there. Only not the same.

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