In editing my first book, When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother, some of the poems in the first drafts inevitably got whacked. Many of the dead poems were indeed dreck, but there are two that I can’t bear to part with. I want to see them published along with their brothers and sisters.
When the New England college towns get bombed
we are writing papers on the French
cubist poets through feminist lenses.
We students always come at such moments
slantwise because we have access to books
and books, plus Ritalin and Vicodin
prescriptions that make the moments
malleable and space and time
the muckamuck of debate clubs, but now
there is one lone reality
no matter what Pierre Reverdy says.
Sirens and smoking fires, professors
sick and flailing like licorice whips.
First we think of ourselves, as we’ve
always done, and how we jabbered on
about revolution and taking
down The Man. But we are The Man,
ninny nincompoops. The revolution
is on us. This is how people get thrust
onto inward journeys they don’t want.
Still, we make vows to see all things
fresh from now on. If we make it out
we’ll show love for calculus, pop quizzes,
red meat, the country music scene,
Young Republicans, frosted lips,
estranged relatives, marketing glitz,
and near-victories in extra innings.
Sirens and smoking fires, student body
president is leaving his body.
Now we understand why men live in shacks
with cans of baked beans and skinny dogs.
This is what Montana was built for.
This is when we ask ourselves what we did
wrong. Were we truculent? Pugnacious?
Bellicose? Inimical? Martial?
We only complained about bad smells
that were our bad smells; We only got blind
drunk and schooled here; only ate the bread
and purchased the makes and models.
We only disposed of what was
disposable and then disposed of the rest.
All week your sister was in town and it went like this:
you setting perfect moods on too-many excursions
and her nodding: Good. A joint for Jimi Hendrix
on Haight-Ashbury, a pipe for Joni Mitchell
in Muir Woods, bong hits in the backseat at Baker Beach
with Janis Joplin. She liked it the way civilians
who are not on the run always like California,
which is to say she appreciated the landscape
but felt no compulsion to stay. Then there was you,
3000 miles from home and still on a tear
through the woods over Sutro Heights, worried she wouldn’t
see the city through your eyes, calling out to her
behind you: Here’s the thing about San Francisco!
One minute you’re in a magic forest and the next
you’re at a fine restaurant. Even when your slick flats
hit the roots of a craggy Eucalyptus and you
fell into a wet patch of flowering succulents
you did not simply lay back and watch the sky spinning
over you. There was too much thereness there to relax.
And what after? After, the sweet bud would stop working
altogether and you’d reach out for whiskey
and Xanax, in thick spindles of blackout timezone,
to calibrate your metronome with the West coast
where the ocean forces you to stop running places
and run in place. East coast you would bubble up
inside, and when it hit skin you’d twitch. You’d call
your sister on New Years Eve and say: I bet you’re lit,
this is the night for amateurs. You’d be lit too.
Melissa Broder is the author of When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother. She is the curator of the Polestar Poetry Series and the Chief Editor of La Petite Zine. She is the winner of the Jerome Lowell Dejur Award and the Stark Prize for Poetry. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and is currently in the MFA program at the CCNY. By day, she works as a literary publicist. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including: Opium, Shampoo, Conte and The Del Sol Review. She lives in Brooklyn. Visit her website http://www.melissabroder.com/.
Melissa Broderis the author of the novels Milk Fed and The Pisces, the essay collection So Sad Today, and five poetry collections, including Superdoom. She has written for The New York Times, Elle, and New York magazine’s The Cut. She lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @SoSadToday and @MelissaBroder and Instagram @RealMelissaBroder.