The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

David Kirby

Wouldn't It Be Nice

 

                          On the way to the poetry reading, you see three women
pushing strollers and tugging dogs on leashes, and you say,
                        “How about that—the women are walking their babies
            and dogs while their husbands stay home to play Fantasy

                        Football, and we’re going to the poetry reading,”
and she says, “Yeah, like there’s a difference
                        between poetry and Fantasy Football.” She’s right: the men
            move their players around, the poets move

                        their words. What about the winning part, though—
who wins in poetry? Everywhere I go I find
                        that a poet has been there before me, says Freud.
            Freud was a scientist or at least said he was.

                        How can a poet get someplace a scientist can’t?
Scientists have compasses and protractors
                        and azimuths and theodolites, not to mention grant money,
            whereas poets just have pen and paper. Look at it this way:

                        let’s say you’re in a tavern. There you are in
the Wistful Tavern with its sad musicians and hesitant
                        gamblers. There you are with your money. There you are
            when Jesus comes in and says, I choose you.

                        There you are then on that cross, raising your hand as
the torturer screams and the others look on as though to say,
                        This isn’t happening or turn away in horror because they know
            it won’t end well, and it doesn’t. But in the time between,

                        you’d put away your finery and your fancy haircut for
a writing desk, and now the prettiest little angel in the world
                        is holding the first finger of his left hand with the thumb
            and forefinger of his right and saying, First, write this,

                        and you say, But I don’t believe in any of it, and the angel says,
You don’t have to believe, and you’re looking up and saying,
                        What, then? and the angel is looking down and saying, Write.
            The morning after the poetry reading, you swing by

                        Steph’s Southern Soul Restaurant on the way to work to have
breakfast and talk faith and recipes, and you’re putting away
                        your eggs and biscuits when Steph comes over with an order
            of bread pudding and says, “The Spirit told me to bring you this,”

                        and you leave Steph’s filled with glory and bacon. You work
in the dark, is all. You do what you can. Buckminster
                        Fuller said he never searched for beauty, but if the solution
            to a given problem wasn’t beautiful, he knew it was wrong.

 

David Kirby

Psalm 150

 

Barbara said she’d marry me if I promised two things:
            one is that I wouldn’t suddenly announce that I’m gay,
and the other is that I wouldn’t become a Christian.
                        “Okay!” I said. I really wanted
to marry her. It’s hard enough for a man and a woman to organize

their sex lives around work schedules, children,
            housework, different states of arousal at different
times, exhaustion, slights both perceived and actual,
                        interfering inlaws, overuse
of drugs and/or alcohol, and arguments over religion, money, and children

as well as many other impediments to the seamless
            intercourse that seems to exist only in “blue movies”
and not even there half the time, which impediments
                        are far too many to be listed in
a poem which isn’t about sex anyway. So that takes care of the gay thing.

Which brings us to the Christian thing. She’d been
            raised that way: praying and singing all day long,
church every Wednesday night, twice on Sunday.
                        You’ve never heard the phrase
“vacation bible camp” till you’ve heard Barbara say it. Who needs church,

anyway? Psalm 150 tells us to praise the Lord God
            with the sound of the trumpet, with the lute and harp,
with timbrel and dance, with stringed instruments
                        and pipes, on the loud cymbal
and the high-sounding cymbal as well. So let’s try that. St. Augustine says

we create pleasing order through music, and in this
            way do we chant our way to God. Too, your top-shelf
authors say something very much like:
                        “Only connect,” says E. M. Forster, and “live
in fragments no longer,” which is from Howards End, Chapter XXII.

Raymond Carver even wrote a poem called “Late
            Fragment,” in which the speaker asks someone
if he got what he wanted in this life, and the person
                        says, I did, and what I wanted
was “to call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.”

As she left the stage of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta
            after her concert this November, Aretha Franklin
asked her audience to depart in “peace, joy, kindness,
                        and giving.” I promise, Aretha!
And not just as I am leaving the Fox Theatre in Atlanta but every day,

for no matter what turn my little life takes, I believe
            the things you asked of us have the power to heal all
of us together, every one. I hope you marry well, reader.
                        I hope you listen to music, live music,
and read books, good ones. I hope you marry somebody smart, also fun.

 

 

 

DAVID KIRBY's collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” His latest poetry collection is Get Up, Please. See also www.davidkirby.com.

 

 

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