Poem: “During the Middle Ages” by Camille Guthrie

Went to a Literary North event w/ a friend on Saturday featuring the poet Camille Guthrie and the short fiction writer Peter Orner, both of whom are smart lovely people who shared memorable sentences with us (a small audience/thirsty for their thoughts and works/ready with our questions).

As usual I almost enjoyed the talk about the writing as much as the writing itself. And then on the way home I read this poem out loud to my friend as she drove and we LAUGHED and we SNORTED and we LAUGHED and cried “Genius!” and LAUGHED.


During the Middle Ages

O God I am so fat
I cry all the time
A kitten scrubbed with a toothbrush online makes me sob
I’m so heartless seven species of bees
Are now endangered and I didn’t do a thing
Didn’t even send any money
To anybody doing any good
And I can’t lose any weight I skipped yoga
I’m so hot all the time so broke
So pathetic no wise investments
Should’ve bought a 7-Eleven on a busy corner
When I was seven or eleven
Nobody wants to lick my neck
Nobody wants to hold my hand at the doctor’s office
Nobody to grow old with me I’m so crabby
To pluck my beard feed the cat I don’t have
And read me endless Russian novels at night
All the ones I still haven’t got to so greatly depressing
Where are you handsome? Are you
Driving in your car to come visit me
Bringing a bottle of wine & a present so gallant?
A new translation of Akhmatova? I love it!
No? Well, I guess it’s better than living
In the real Middle Ages when
Some shithead priest threatens you with hell
To pocket your last coin and there’s no Tylenol
So you have to suck on some skullcap seeds
And knights race around knocking you down
To take your maidenhood with pointy lances
And you have to work as a midwife with no birthing tub
Nobody washes their hands or votes
Nobody knows about DNA or PMS
There’s nothing to read even if you can read
Except boring doctrines or Spiritual Exercises
By Gertrude the Great, I’m not even kidding
Yes, there’s Dante Chaucer and some sagas
But it’s not like you’d get near those books
You’d be lucky to have some jerk recite the latest
By Wulfstan the Cantor by campfire
Before he beheads your uncles
And forces you to rub salve on his abs
You know you’d be sweating in a field at twenty-two
Dying from your tenth pregnancy by the bailiff
Courtly love? Not a lot of it I bet
Some doctor would drill a hole in my head
To let the demons out because I’d be full
Of black bile as I am today
It would be a very hard time
When the sun revolves around the earth
And kings are just unbelievably selfish
And it’ll be a really long time before Pop Art
And meerkat videos and cotton candy
And Kurosawa and fish tacos and girl bands
Everything’s just so bad and you have buboes
Hopefully I’d get shoved into a nunnery
To have some ecstatic experience with mystical Jesus
Or better I could be a hardcore samurai
Laying down justice on the heads of corrupt lords
But that was tough work, dirty work
You’re working for nobility who at any period
In history are the worst people in the world
And to be an unemployed ronin was lonely
Even if all the brothel ladies offer to scrub your back
Sometimes you just want a nice nap
And some Neosporin on your wounds
If only I could be like the divine Sei Shōnagon
Resplendent in silks with seven-layered sleeves
Writing in my room about politics and my lovers
I wish okay I could be her servant
Dusting the ink stone and fluffing her pillow
But even she found many hateful things
About living in the middle ages
Like crying babies messy guests and mansplainers
So irritating even way back then
You better shut up and take your medicine

— Camille Guthrie

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“SHOUT-OUTS” (a minor epic) (mine).

SHOUT-OUTS

Today I feel like giving shout-outs
to my people around the country (around the world)
doing their thang as hard & best they can.
Shout-out to the poets writing poems
and the poets trying to write more poems.
Shout-out to the hard-workin’ ladiez
in grad school tryna make time for their boyfriends
& do their adult homework & get enough sleep
& not cry every single day cuz it’s a little too much.
Shout-out to the doctor-in-training.
Shout-out to the lawyer-to-be.
Shout-out to those who have moved recently
out of love for their partner
which I find a valid reason
to cross state lines.
Shout-outs to the ladies turning male
and the males transitioning into ladiez,
making a switch so tough I’ll spend my life
just trying to fathom it. Shout-outs to the players
of nighttime piano concertos in the bossman’s
vestibule. Shout-out to the teachers
and the educators and the riot-makers
asking everyone around them to Please
Step Up And Change with Me.
Big-Ass shout-outs to the baristas & baristos
serving medium-hot coffee to the assholes
of the world, myself included.
Shout-out to the musicians sitting in low-ceilinged rooms
making their tall music.
Shout-outs to all the dads & the moms
especially the new dads & moms
figuring their shit out and loving their babies
and trying to devise the best way
not to get pissed on. Shout-out to the pissing babes
spraying their new baby-yellow rooms
and puking right onto their mom’s faces
because that mom is still gonna love you
and I look forward to understanding a love like that.
Shout-out to the horse-owners and the pig-lovers
& the goat-chin-scratchers, pulling cold flakes of hay
from the bales to keep those animals alive
through these cold-ass months. Shout-out
to the gay dads preparing for their baby girl
& conquering the question of breastmilk.
Shout-out to the ones looking to feel better next year
cuz I think we all want that.
Shout-out to the firepeople for saving our lives
and the ambulance drivers for saving our lives
and the snow plow drivers for saving our lives.
Shout-out to the intrepid mailman
driving up the hill to bring me the news
I need. Shout-outs to the chaps & broads
serving lunch & dinner & breakast. Shout-out to anyone
working outside at this very minute. Shouts
to the truck drivers who are Literally Bringing Us
Everything. Shout-out to the pilots of the planes
that carry us to family and vacation.
Shout-outs to the grannies knitting hats for charities
& the grannies knitting hats for grandchildren.
Shout-out to my grandpa who asks good questions
& who I owe a telephone call.
Shouts to the journalists trying to make sense
of the world quickly enough to help us make sense of it.
Shout-out to the witches that still live in Salem.
Shout-out to the volunteers of anything.
Shout-outs to the instigators & the academics
crushin’ it in their university newspapers
& in the streets. Shout-outs to the full-time potters
& the full-on proper ladies serving tea
to the homeless (if you exist).
Shout-outs to Every Single Person working at a job
that is not their dream job.
And shout-outs to even those working
at their dream jobs, because not even dreams
are perfect. Shout-out to the humans in Info Booths
everywhere. Shout-out to the toll collectors & magazine
slingers. Shout-out to the people driving across the border
to get to work. Shout-out to the tractor drivers
& their neck pains. Shouts to the lovers
underneath the sheets & the ones defaming
public restrooms with their bodies (cuz who am I
to judge). Shout-out to the straight-laced ladies
who wanna get whipped in their bedrooms.
Shout-out to the ladies who really don’t.
Shout-out to any man acknowleding his status
of power and using it wisely. Shout-out to the PhDs
& the RIPS along the highway.
Shout-out to all the goddamn good humans
whose presence we no longer get to enjoy,
may they rest their weary heads in a sweeter world.
Shout-out to the writers writing in secret
at their jobs & sleepily at home.
Shout-out to the beekeepers & the bees.
Shout-out to the injured athletes, because pain
knows no salary. Shouts to the loudmouths
& the whisperers and to anyone
with a birth mark on their face
that made their formative years miserable.
Shout-out to the people living with disabilities
that are finding grace where they can.
Shout-out to to everyone I missed,
because I know you’re shouting, too.
Shout-out to everyone who knows
it’s about listening & not being heard.
Shout-out to the haters who are gonna be all
“That girl’s poems are too damn long.” Cuz listen:
I’m short, I’m compensating, I’m just trying
to be a little loud to make a little more goodness grow.
I’m shouting out. Holler back.

Poem for Kerouac; poem out loud (mine) (you can listen to it).

Jack Kerouac’s word world is totally different than mine. He’s all

bellhop

coat rack

campaign

buttonhole

ventriloquist

pince-nez

morphine

silhouette

& etc.

His words aren’t mine but I’d be a damn fool not to try some out. Here’s a poem I wrote on the couch on Kerouac’s birthday. Not an homage, more like a drunken text I’m sending him through time-and-space, saying, Hey, man. Next year: let’s celebrate our birthdays together. Next year: we’ll dance.

***

On Kerouac’s Birthday

When it comes to billiards I hear mathematics

is rather relevant so I better stay away.

Today on Chelsea Street the oblong “OPEN”

sign that hangs for all to see just sat

inside the storefront like a half-forgotten

letter. With weather like this even a goat

can get pants fulla ants: ready to kid,

to be ridda all this bald white stuff,

she might just sidle into an epidemic

bout of idleness. I tried to call my sis

“Swiss Miss” but she didn’t like the name.

It’s just her darn-cute ponytail & white

toothed grin I want to emulate, to raise

high above the roof beams, Seymour,

to the heights where garlic dries in summer.

Summer in the city means cleavage, cleavage,

cleavage, & the smell of sewage everywhere.

Pigs can clear the forest with their hooves

& bums I got to know out west can’t hear me

now, can’t see me now, can’t stop me now.

 

picture-695

[photo by Allen Ginsberg]

 

Read this poem it will take you 5 seconds (Eileen Myles)!

Just read this poem it will only take you 5 seconds to do so and hey who knows maybe you will really love it maybe you will be like OOOOOH-KAY, POEMS, I DIG! Or maybe you’ll want to send it to a loved one or a loathed one maybe it will make you think of summertime or of the word “jumpsuit” which is not a word we get to say that often but a good word nonetheless. With a poem you really never know what’s going to happen what little locked door in your bodymind is going to get opened maybe that’s why we all have bodies and minds (so they can be opened like doors like secret trapdoors).

 

THE BEACH

Economically, not
emotionally this
color is connected
to that color
the waves
break

they really
do.

I hold on,
I hold on to you

 

-Eileen Myles

 

I paid $8 for this poem (and I don’t regret it) (Ben Aleshire).

Sometimes you’re in New Orleans for a bachelorette weekend with your favorite ladies and you meet a Vermont poet with a typewriter on the street and you ask for a poem please and he writes you one and you like it a lot and you pay him $8 which seems like a lot to you but seems like a little to him since he just had a woman hand him two crisp twenties for her poem. And maybe if this happens to you you feel a little bit like the world is helping you out, throwing you a bone, or in this case, a Ben.

 

Fruit

 

Clementine, you say,

already tasting it.

Apricot, and the word is caught

on your tongue (lone muscle

of both language & hunger) (the word

itself you peel and undress).

In the night you wake,

find yourself in an orchard –

don’t you        don’t you

You cannot sleep for the sound

of apples falling all around you,

words heavy on the branch.

Even trees let go their fruit.

Nothing weighs more

than a burden refused (say the apples

touching each other in the grass)

 

***

 

 

This is the best thing on the internet (POETRY + HIP HOP).

The internet is too big to talk about as a whole, but on the whole I’ll generalize and say that my favorite thing about the internet is….this.

So now that you clicked on that link, click the little play button, and now you’ll be listening to Frank O’Hara (THE MAN MY LEGEND) reading his poem “Ode to Joy” over an instrumental version of Drake’s “The Best I Ever Had.”

I already love Drake because he is a pretty good rapper and once made a video that took place at a bar mitzvah (combining Judaism and hip hop, which rarely happens). I’ve loved Frank O’Hara for always & always will, even though he is very easy to love and everyone seems to. I think I still love him differently. His little lispy-crispy pronunciation. His gap tooth. His neck in a crew neck sweater in the postcard that lives in my truck. I do love him. And now thanks to the internet, (well, thanks to Cassanda Gillig, whom I would like to meet because he seems hilarious and cool and smart and essential), I can have poetry & hip hop fused in just the way I never knew I’d love because I hadn’t fathomed it yet.

And there’s more. There’s Brautigan & Mariah Carey! Even better THERE IS JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE AND ALICE NOTLEY. I am going bonkers right now. You know when you find something that you like so much you can’t handle it? And you think about how good life was before and how now it’s one significant notch better? And you feel like your posture has gotten better and that there’s more space between your toes so you can stand and jump and dance better? Do you guys know what I’m talking about?

 

 

“Eggs and a Song” (poem out loud) (mine!).

Eggs and a Song

The chickens are just heading in

through their chicken-sized door

 

as I challenge spring in the car,

tires hugged in mud in the bend

 

where the fast-driving neighbor

does his fast-driving damages

 

of ruts in the road. I am not yet

thirty and wearing the remains

 

of red lipstick as I walk through

the door of my home. My man’s

 

on the floor with his toes to the sky

in a stretch and the teapot is still

 

breathing steam. Imagining other

couples is like imagining history:

 

I can’t do it at all without the help

of a movie. In the film of my days,

 

my man is healing himself

with patience and I am healing

 

my self with something like hope.

On a bad day I can’t even fight

 

off my rooster; on most days

I’m pocketing eggs with a song.