Sunday 5 November 2017

2 Poems by Gary Duehr

American Gothic

Has my subject been wrung dry
By 20th-century novelists—who wonder why
A regular guy
Halfway through his life would suddenly find that he's
Without belief, adrift? Am I
That guy? I don't want to be. Still, these
Days keep piling up.
Once I found myself wiping my face
With a washrag in the bathroom mirror, trying to erase
The feeling I'd fucked up.
Does that count? I haven't sobbed out loud
For 20 years or more.
Maybe I should. That scary place at four
In the morning, when a crowd
Of strangers line up in dreams to accuse you—
That's when things get shaky.
Does that amuse you?
Can any of us truly locate the unique aching
In those nearest to us? Imagine staring
At "American Gothic" and seeing a startling
Truth about a man and wife
Behind the pitchfork and grim expressions, like a palette knife
That scrapes you. Here we are
Like any couple, driving in our car
To some friends' house for dinner. Conversation slows.
On Sirius, the CNN shows
Bark out the latest snafus. Every moment
Thrums with wariness, a foment
Of ideas assembled, piece by piece, on short notice.
The headlights scoop a tunnel
Between the snowy mounds. We pull
Into the driveway, kill the engine. Below the surface,
Nothing's happened; everything's happened.
Language fails.

Breaking News

It’s hard to keep up with each new disaster.
They just keep coming, faster and faster. What’s the last error?
Take your pick.
A phone call here, a phone call there, the tick tock tick
Of hourly disgraces. Hanging up
On the Australian PM, threatening the Mexican Pres.
With sending in U.S. troops to round up
All the “bad hombres.”
Jesus, hit pause. There’s no time to get nostalgic
For last week’s gaffe: using the CIA’s wall of heroes
As a backdrop for a narcissistic
CV: number of Time covers, despite the media ho’s.
Never mind the farcical rollout
Of the ban that’s not a ban, the national fallout
From nominees whose nominal expertise is close to nil.
Timeout for a photo-op. See the sparkly Harley cycle
On the White House lawn?
See the president’s tie, so red and long,
As he strides down the East Room’s carpet
To announce his latest get?
It’s hard to come up with enough quick rhymes
For the worst of times.
What’s to be done? Another rally? An online petition?
Post more angry poems? Acts of sedition?
This just in: the Sixties you missed
Are back, from UC Berkeley to DC, and they’re wicked pissed.


Gary Duehr has taught poetry and writing for institutions including Boston University, Lesley University, and Tufts University. His MFA is from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. In 2001 he received an NEA Poetry Fellowship, and he has also received grants and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the LEF Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Journals in which his poems have appeared include Agni, American Literary Review, Chiron Review, Cottonwood, Hawaii Review, Hotel Amerika, Iowa Review, North American Review, and Southern Poetry Review. His books of poetry include In Passing (Grisaille Press, 2011), THE BIG BOOK OF WHY (Cobble Hill Books, 2008), Winter Light (Four Way Books, 1999) and Where Everyone Is Going To (St. Andrews College Press, 1999).

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