Sunday, September 19, 2010


She has too many doilies.
She sets flagrant desserts aflame.
She’s both a wisecrack and a wound.

She’s got witchhazel on cottonballs
            in a mason jar.
She boogies, but the imprint
left on the settee turns a little lurid.
She says Sobriety
            is exceptionally hard to implement,
            though she don’t dig the reefer.

She draws badgers
            shooting laser beams, cauterizing wounds.
She defends oncologists.
She points out Losing one’s arms
            wouldn’t diminish the ability
            to master complex mathematics, though
            it might affect one’s ability to hold a pencil.

She yells to the sidewalk gimp
            One hell of a prosthesis!
            and makes his highbeams shine.
She doesn’t blame doctors.
            How could they know?
            How could they possibly know?

She sees barbed wire as slag in the brine.
She has a believe robot.

      *      *      *
In a math class at Anoka Ramsey Community College, I had a quirky red-haired professor. She would often say odd things, though they were (usually) astute and circuitously apropos. Many students felt that she was off-the-wall and simply weird. I liked her. She was fun to watch and to listen to. This poem has almost nothing to do with her. All the italicized quotes in the poem come from my former math teacher, though they've all been moved to a new context, and the "she" is not her. (I do, however, think of her sometimes when I revisit this poem.)

Once I began the repetition of "She..." lines, I stepped out of the way and allowed the character to take shape. Images appeared from disparate places: Anne Shirley's bosom friend, Diana Barry, hoped to get many (one might even say too many) doilies for her wedding, singer extraodinaire: Ani Difranco has a body part "built like a wound that won't heal," my old friend Jody was the witchhazel/cottonball, my ex had a grandfather who lost a leg in World War II and spent the rest of his life bursting the confines of his wheelchair with joie de vivre, and my wife and I have both lost loved ones to cancer. 

The final couplet is pure James, as far as I recall. Oddly enough, my former poetry writing group had many problems accepting this ending to the poem. Some felt that it made no sense (as though it needs to). Some objected to having the pair of lines coupled (coupleted?), and thought that either alone would work better. Some simply objected to "believe" in that context, and suggested that "belief" would make more sense. I've always liked that couplet. I dunno. What do you think?

Do you like robots?

First published in the seemingly defunct The Fulcrum Online, Fall 2004.

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