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Poetry

January 2, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

roya ann miller photo

 

By

David Lohrey

 

 

 

Everything

 

 

Our public space is full of sex. We choke on it like air pollution.

Everywhere we go we see what we’re refused or denied.

Look but don’t touch is more true today than ever before.

That’s not confusing?

Our teachers, coaches, and priests are hauled away.

But we look the other way. They are perverts, monsters, or sinners.

We continue to live in denial.

We deny the power of sexual attraction.

 

We make fun of Arabs. We ridicule them and call them backward.

The sophisticated spinster finds them appalling.

The open-minded want to kill them.

The liberal wouldn’t be caught dead in Saudi Arabia.

Why are we so stupid? Who are we kidding?

 

Our reactions are proof of our ignorance.

They might be wrong about nearly everything,

but they’re not wrong about sex.

Just look at western law suits.

Muslims are experts on sexual harassment.

They don’t tolerate it.

Husbands, brothers, and fathers make sure of that

and that’s how it used to be in New Jersey.

Nobody put hands on Tony’s sister or he’d have killed them.

 

That’s how it was until yesterday at 2:00.

We forget what’s going on. Read our history.

Pick up the evening paper; get the news.

The kids in kindergarten are being hauled away for kissing.

Transsexuals are not allowed to pee.

Women in the workplace are on the phones with their lawyers.

Isn’t clear we don’t know what we’re doing?

 

We can’t follow the Muslims and they can’t be asked to go our way.

We need to listen is all I’m saying.

We know a lot but not enough to be smug about it.

Arabs are sophisticated, elegant people.

We should bow our heads and ask them to teach us.

If they are lucky, we’ll teach them, too, but only if they ask us.

 

 

 

 

Fair Is Fair

 

 

I’d like to thank the Academy but not my parents. Where

I come from, this is called ingratitude. Parents

are said to have made sacrifices. They give up a lot.

They throw away their dreams. This is one reason

life becomes unbearable. They want to be free

but have kids instead.

 

They give up their dreams and get stuck in reality.

My parents thought of me as real. It was the piss

and the shit that gave me away. There were

no smelly diapers in their dreams. Mom envied Marilyn

Monroe. She saw herself as a movie star in the making.

My birth robbed her of a luxury trailer parked at the studio.

 

She wanted her own dressing room, a make-up artist,

and a well-hung chauffeur. Who knew what

he wanted? He, too, might have gone for a chauffeur:

that’s what she always said. I’d say he just wanted to be left alone.

But he could have done without the nappies. He lived

in his own world. He wanted world fame. He needed adulation.

 

Mom and dad were children of the thirties, parents of the fifties.

They drank the Kool-Aid and made us drink it, too. They thought

Rock Hudson was straight. They admired JFK, Johnny Carson,

and Doris Day. They were convinced Liberace was a great

pianist. They believed washing-machines would make them happy.

They fed us Pop Tarts and canned ravioli with a smile.

 

For them, life was fair. They grew up on Tommy Dorsey.

They abhorred sex, drugs, and rock & roll. They bought a micro-wave.

They took us to Morrison’s Cafeteria and to Shoney’s Big Boy.

They forbade us to stay out late. They wouldn’t let me masturbate.

When I wanted a house, they told me to save my pennies.

When I wanted a job, they told me to get in line.

 

My father thought feeding pets was a waste of money. He turned

the ketchup bottles upside-down to catch the last drop. When

we got sick, to save $15 he wouldn’t take us to the doctor.

The Depression for him was the high point of his life. He loved it.

He made sure it never ended. They bought their house for $17,000

and sold it 30 years later for $600,000. Mother said they were set for life.

 

Funny how the fifties are remembered as a reality show in black & white.

Sunset Boulevard alone ought to straighten that out.

The Sixties confused its delusions with those of the fifties.

People in the Fifties wanted to escape from real life, while

people in the Sixties wanted fantasies. They wanted escape, too.

But not only from reality. They moved from fantasy into hallucination.

 

People say now the fifties is over. We live in reality;

the dreams are over. I’d say that sounds just about right.

The most dangerous delusion is that the dream isn’t over.

There are those who are still asleep. It can be said that most

Americans are in this condition. Who can blame them?

A $17,000 house sold in 1969 in Detroit is now worth about $500.

 

Kennedy’s plan was to take over the world, land on the moon,

and conquer outer space. That was the American dream before

people burned Newark to the ground; that was the same year

Detroit was set ablaze. If my house, which I bought back in ’97

for $210,000, increased 20 times over, as my parents’ house

did, it’d be worth more than 4 million dollars in 2020.

 

If you believe that is likely, you are a more than a big dreamer;

you are a stranger to reality, like England’s jolly King George III.

If you believe that, you not only have to believe in the dream,

you have to embrace the outer limits. Perhaps you’d to fuck Bugs

Bunny. Perhaps you’d like to kill Mickey. Americans are the only

people on earth who come up with this shit.

 

 

 

 

Street Theatre

 

 

The news tonight is that there are rioters rioting in the streets of Charlotte.

I want to be a witness; I’ll go myself.

 

I see folks on the pavement and they look like they are having a riot but

they say to me they are dancers dancing not rioters rioting and I believe

them. One of them points out that the proof they are dancing is that

they are having a good time. If they were rioting they wouldn’t be happy.

 

I have to confess to not having thought of that, that dancers are happy

while rioters are otherwise. That makes a lot of sense to me. Dancers do

tend to be happy, I can say with some certainty; I know this because

I too have done some dancing, but I really know little about rioting.

 

I go next to one of the ushers, a large man in a blue uniform. He’s wearing

a helmet. I figure he must work for the theatre. First thing, I ask if I need

a ticket. He, too, seems happy, because he bursts out laughing. He says

I must be joking. Don’t I know matinees are free?

 

This cheers me immensely. Had I known beforehand, I tell the usher,

I could have invited my girlfriend or even my parents. I notice then that the usher

is carrying a pistol. I’ve been in theatres around the world, in Tokyo, London,

and even Moscow, but I have never seen an usher carrying a loaded weapon.

When I see that, I decide not to ask for a program. I think I’d better move on.

I wonder if the ushers are having trouble controlling the audience. They are unruly.

 

I start walking toward the sunken stage and public auditorium. It is crowded

so I figure that like the other folks I might have to settle for standing room only.

I want a seat in the orchestra but I notice that there are really no bad seats.

I already have a great view.

 

The dancers are clearly in the middle of a scene. I must have missed

the opening. They are shouting and swirling, kicking their legs and waving

banners and posters. One is burning the flag. I can’t quite make out what

they are saying. I figure they are doing some sort of medieval pageant,

a festival, or perhaps even a wedding.

 

One thing I keep hearing is “it matters, it matters” (what matters?) and then

almost in unison I catch something like “don’t shoot.” I decide then that

I must be watching a modern version of Romeo and Juliet, which happens

to be a favorite. It looks to have an almost entirely Afro-American cast, which

I think is a neat innovation. I like creative casting. I must have walked in

on the fight scene, because the actors are very excited.

 

Anyway, I am having a ball and so, it seems, is the rest of the audience.

I can’t wait to read the reviews. The Charlotte paper used to have such

a great theatre critic, but now just a string of people who write about

what’s called entertainment. But this is great, real public theatre right

downtown in the business district. The city is finally getting its act together.

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