The Poetry Project

from “Poem beginning with a phrase from Robert Glück on the occasion of my 37th birthday”

Ted Dodson (NL Editor 2013-2015)

“I always wanted to be a great husband and wife, and a child too…”

all of these things, at once, anchored by a largesse of self that has capacity

to transform the feelings another part of me considers true enough.

We’re all these pieces patterning together, the catalyzing self, the conscience, and the human

object, which is sometimes more of a wall against which only the tackiest things adhere.

I saw this headline trending: “I left my husband for the most hated man in America.”

That really could be anybody. It’s a good idea to leave your husband, but not for anyone in particular

unless that new husband is yourself. Can’t say that I want to be a great most hated man in America.

It’s my birthday, so I’d like to write something beautiful, like how Bob writes about fucking (sexual politics) and food

(also sexual politics), so sumptuous and precise. Like, when he describes pissing in Brian’s mouth

and says he can’t feel the difference between cock, urine, and Brian, that it’s all a sort of endemic pressure

radiating outward, that he envies “the clarity of [Brian’s] position.” Something like that,

but I feel suspended in the ugly air of self-pronouncement and reflection. Brandon

(happy birthday, Brandon!) texts me that he’s making panzanella and a flat, stamp-like pasta

(like a round, Roman stamp smaller than a coaster but larger than a silver dollar) called corzetti

paired with braised morels and maitakes. I ask him about his ideal end to a birthday

poem. He says he ends his with a rhyming couplet invoking the specific age he’s turning.

Thirty-seven years wound within this line,

but ending with a couplet feels like a double-bind.

I question if it’s true

that art is most alive when it is at its most artificial, that the closer to our reality’s end

we can write that the virtual world of art and its fabrications saturates with increasing vibrancy

our experience of things until that experience becomes a line infinitely thinning, minimizing

into the window of pure creation. It is a continuation of what we know of ourselves, however indistinguishable

from its new solution. Today, which is a few months later than when I started this poem, it’s the first chilly morning of fall.

Marie and I left the windows open last night, and our apartment is full, which isn’t hard to do, with the scent

of leaves first shedding their green, minuscule matter gathered in the cold rasp

traveling through our window screen. Outside, no difference is born to the eye yet,

though the unweaving of color happens first without anyone seeing it, fibers collecting in eddies then

turning gently under the skin of passersby still shaded overhead as they too are quietly dissolving

and recombining, how our being continually replaces itself fold by fold (the measure of a moment), every living thing a heaven

comprised of all that has passed through many other things before and has now become entangled in a sheer stroke

of luck (whatever that is), as lucky as anything is to be.

#270 – Fall 2022