Downward Social Comparison, Sparkling Water, Focused Melancholy, the Death of the Monument, and a Diligent Appeal to Noise
To what do we owe the pleasure? As must be the case today around noon the boss spills lemon seltzer down one trouser leg and his two kids don't like the way he smells. Today I am afraid someone with more power than I have has clipped the ears off a bear and poured thousands of gallons of Gatorade into Old Faithful. I am talking about it. I am agreeing to be responsible. To eat less bread pudding and save all of my trash for a year and when it’s finally time to do the dirty work, to bring the chip bags and tinfoil and takeout boxes to a dewy pasture, to build a pyre and light it up and stand in silence in the plastic stink. I am agreeing to disagree with the small book of laws I live by, the way a ballerina agrees with the air she’s spinning in and can’t help but disagree with the end of the song.
What you don't lock your mouth on can’t be helped or hurt. Just between the smell of salt, pink gum, and rotting catfish eggs is where to aim. And carefully, like bringing a meniscus on a teaspoon to the room upstairs. Or down. Slow down. Like memory’s the final thread of saffron on its way to being wasted in beef stew. Let’s assume the consequences will be nothing more than pain. Nothing less than the plush of numbing down. Easier to say, the common wisdom goes, than to lose coffee grounds in watered dirt at night. Than thoughts, or prayers, or hiccup. Pass. The right words are the words for the occasion.
We call an artificial lens a contact. The surface of you gets bent, reforming the world’s natural blur into a clearer shape. You’re a work of art, don’t you see? You should be hung up with wire on a gallery’s white walls to look at everyone who pays to come. That show would get old pretty fast. I think it’s worth it to ask, would you call your eyeball a craving or a carapace? Like the contact, you insist on keeping the poem squarely between us. That’s counterproductive. And to think, you could interpret only the blur and I would still be just as fond. Are you breaking up the little family of you and me here? You could teach the night class on divorce, even if you haven’t tried it out. Did you know you can split up with yourself in poems? The rule is, if there’s a turn, there’s something to return to.
Cameron Quan Louie is from Tucson. He received his MFA from the University of Washington. His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and he received the McLeod-Grobe Prize for Poetry in 2017. He has also interned at Wave Books and was a Multiplying Mediums Fellow in 2016. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in inter|rupture, Duende, The Gravity of the Thing, Sonora Review, Hobart, and jubilat among others.