days of grit

It could be because work has been a meat grinder this week or it could be the coming mai-lai of my birthday which usually is the beacon of so many things good, but this morning I chose to see it as the harbinger of doom that has become the US press and their constant devotion to the downward cycle of the economy. Their chicken little to a sky coughing from smog. Tonight, I picked up some poetry and found it really spoke bits of glass into my spirit that today took on a bit of a cement rub.

I began reading Richard Siken’s “Crush” the other evening and found it brutal and vivid and beautiful. His sentence structure is choppy and his lineation on the page keeps the eye involved. He leaps around a lot and it works. The title really suited the collection in both its insinuation of being crushed and the reference to a love interest. As the reader, there is a pervasive sense of sorrow and suffering that has transpired. Since most of the poems are in the direct present voice, the effect on the reader is one of commiseration. His poem “Boot Theory” uses repetition turning the poem into a funny house with a wall of mirrors where the prismatic reflections implicate everyone in the room as holding the bloody knife. He brings the reader into his hell well. I think his short lines also disturbingly create a feeling of intoxication or maybe it was the smooth Sam Adams I drank at dinner. No matter, Siken’s words penetrated me deeply tonight as they speak of the human condition. I want to share “Boot Theory” below in its entirety. You’ve been warned. It’s not a happy poem, but damn, it’s chock full of beauty. Please note that due to the blog’s disrespect of poetic lineation the version below does not capture Siken’s lineation in “Crush.” And so it goes…

Boot Theory by Richard Siken

A man walks into a bar and says:
Take my wife- please.
So you do.
You take her out into the rain and you fall in love with her
and she leaves you and you’re desolate.
You’re on your back in your undershirt, a broken man
on an ugly bedspread, staring at the water stains
on the ceiling.
And you can hear the man in the apartment above you
taking off his shoes.
You hear the first boot hit the floor and you’re looking up,
you’re waiting
because you thought it would follow, you thought there would be
some logic, perhaps, something to pull it all together
but here we are in the weeds again,
here we are
in the bowels of the thing: your world doesn’t make sense.
And then the second boot falls.
And then a third, a fourth, a fifth.

A man walks into a bar and says:
Take my wife- please.
But you take him instead.
You take him home, and you make him a cheese sandwich,
and you try to get his shoes off, but he kicks you
and he keeps kicking you.
You swallow a bottle of sleeping pills but they don’t work.
Boots continue to fall to the floor
in the apartment above you.
You go to work the next day pretending nothing happened.
Your co-workers ask
if everything’s okay and you tell them
you’re just tired.
And you’re trying to smile. And they’re trying to smile.

A man walks into a bar, you this time, and says:
Make it a double.
A man walks into a bar, you this time, and says:
Walk a mile in my shoes.
A man walks into a convenience store, still you, saying:
I only wanted something simple, something generic…
But the clerk tells you to buy something or get out.
A man takes his sadness down to the river and throws it in the river
but then he’s still left
with the river. A man takes his sadness and throws it away
but then he’s still left with his hands.

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