Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gossip for the Lord

Praise be to the Lord
That wants to hear
Who’s been naughty
And who’s been nice

Praise be to a god like Santa Claus
And like my mother

Who jumped on a telephone
Anytime she saw a man
Walking into Lois Paumgarten’s house
While Mr. Paumgarten was at work

The birds flew toward Heaven
And why shouldn’t they

What my mother was doing
Was no sin
It was sacred

It was treasured
It was gossip for the Lord

You think the lord don’t wanna know
Who’s screwing who?

I hear what you’re saying out there
In those cheap seats
In those wooden seats
In those back rows

You’re saying the Lord already knows

And that’s a fact

But knowing ain’t gossip
Knowing is only a small part
Of gossip

My grandmother knew lots of things
And she took it all with her
When she went
To her grave

Now we tell people all the time
That you can’t take it with you

Don’t we say that?
Isn’t that what we say?

But we only say that
When we’re talking about money
And clothes
And cars

We don’t say it
When we’re talking about
Secrets

Do we?

And why not?

Why take all that information
With you
When you go?

You think the Lord wants that?

You think the Lord wants you
Holding all that in?

You think the Lord wants us to just sit there
Keeping all that
To ourselves?

Let me tell you—

I don’t think so

I do not
Think so

The Lord wants us to gossip

The Lord wants to hear us laughing and carrying on
About who’s doing what with who
And where they’re doing it
And what happened when Mr. Paumgarten came home early from work
And a plumber jumped out of the third story window
And landed in Mrs. P’s bushes

Now I’ve heard some people
From upon altars
And from behind pulpits
Such as this one
Complain about rumors
And compare them to shredded paper
Floating in the wind

Or feathers from a pillow
That can’t be put back

But to them, my colleagues
My misguided colleagues

I say this—

If you see me at a party
Sit next to someone else

Because I love to gossip
I love to talk
And I gotta talk about something
Now don’t I?

They say great minds talk about ideas
Average minds talk about events
And small minds talk about people

Well, let me ask you all something
All of you
Sitting in the cheap seats
In the wooden seats
In the back rows

Don’t people come up with ideas?
Don’t people attend events?
How can you talk about anything
Without talking about people?

I’m not saying it’s gotta be malicious
I’m not saying you have to gossip
With malice in your heart

There’s nothing wrong
With giggling on the phone
The way my mother used to
Because one day the mailman AND the cable man
Walked into Mrs. Paumgarten’s house at the same time

That’s just fun
That’s all that is
Fun

Mrs. Paumgarten had her fun
Why shouldn’t my mother
Have a little bit too?

See, my mother didn’t have a lot

My father worked on the road
And he’d be gone
Months at a time

And me, I was at school
Then I’d go to my friend’s

And my mother needed something
To keep her occupied
Because back then
Nobody told a woman
She could have agency

Nobody told her
That she had the power to do something
With herself

To get up out of the house
And go get a job
Or not to bother sitting around
Waiting for your husband
Or you son to get home

My mother didn’t have a lot of joy
In her life

So when I’d come home
And see her sitting on the phone
Holding her sides from laughing
About everything she’d seen out the window
Of our little apartment
On Knox and Turnmount
I’d feel glad

And thinking back now
I can’t believe that the Lord looked at that
And was…displeased
With my mother

For how she laughed
For, if it was a sin
It couldn’t have been
That big of one

The joy a little talking
Gave to a woman
Who spent her whole life
Listening

To my father
To me
To salesman
Who’d stop by to bother her
Almost every day

To Mrs. Paumgarten
Who used to lecture my mother
Over the phone
About what a good
Christian woman
She was

See—

Mr. Paumgarten
Was a very pious man
And so was his wife

…Or so they said

So I don’t think a little gossip
Hurt the Paumgarten’s all that much

And I bet the Lord didn’t think so either

Because if my mother’s laughter wasn’t heavenly
Then I don’t know what is

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

You Can't Have Everything

In the divorce
He keeps the garbage

All the trash
We’ve accumulated
For the past seven years

That goes to him

I get the cat
The cat I don’t like
The cat I didn’t even know we had
Because neither of us
Has been home
For three months

He says he didn’t buy a cat
I say neither did I
We do rock, paper, scissors
And I get the cat

Motherfucker

That’s the cat’s name
Motherfucker
I mean, what the fuck else
Am I supposed to call him?

Settlement?

He suggested I call it Settlement
And I put my cigarette out
Against a photo of his mother
He keeps in the living room

He wasn’t phased
He hated his mother
It was just my way of saying
I would hurt you if I could

But I can’t

He gets my twin sister
And good luck to him
She’s even more of a bitch than I am

He has to call her twice a day
And make sure she doesn’t ruin her sobriety
And that’s--

Well, that’s a full-time job

I get his brother
Which is fine
He’s stupid
But he’s not loud

He’s that quiet kind of stupid
That makes the world go ‘round

I get the piano I can’t play
He gets the magazine subscription I forgot to cancel

He gets the children
Which is a relief

They’re almost teenagers
And I’m all set with that
Thank you very much

I’ve never laid a finger on any of the kids
But one teenage eyeroll after I ask them to clean their rooms
And I would have beaten them
Like a pinata at a Quinceanera

I’m better off with the cat

He gets the anniversary date
In case he wants to use it
With someone else

I get our honeymoon
The island
The hotel
The activities

Screwing on the balcony
While Adele plays
In the background

Oh yeah, I get Adele
He fought me on that one

He fought harder for Adele
Than for the kids
But I won

He loves ‘One and Only’
I love that one too
We used to make love to that one
And he’d leave it on loop
So we could go at it for hours
And think it was just four and a half minutes

Have you ever heard that song?
It’s perfect

It’s a perfect song

And we were perfect

Then we got married

Marriage doesn’t make you imperfect
It just makes you realize
How fucking imperfect you are

It ruins the illusion

He gets Halloween
I get Christmas

Not with the kids
Just, in terms of celebrating

I get to celebrate Christmas
He gets to dress up on Halloween
And on the holidays we do not get in the divorce
We have to sit home and cry
Over how we’ve destroyed our lives
Because we didn’t have the guts to tough it out
And be miserable forever
The way our parents were

The way his parents were, I mean
My parents actually loved each other
Poor bastards

He gets to call me once a year
And hang up

I get to stalk him on social media
Every three months

He gets to tell people it was my fault
And I get to tell people it was his fault
But neither one of us gets to believe it
When we say that

That last part sucks, but--

Oh well

You can’t have everything

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Wolf

You’re going to hear a wolf
And the wolf isn’t there

You’ll hear something growling
And you’ll bite your lip
And you’ll think there’s a wolf
But the wolf isn’t there

You’ll feel salt on your tongue
And chips in your teeth
Your lip will bleed
But there is no wolf
And there’s never a wolf
And there won’t be a wolf
And the wolf isn’t there

You’re all alone
And you don’t feel alone
Alone would be great
But you’d have to sit there
And wait
For whatever’s going
To show up next

A twig snapping in half
A branch falling from a tree
And what made it fall?
And where did it drop
Was that the sound
You heard off to the right?

Could you stay here, you think?
Could you be here all night?

There’s a wolf in the woods
And it’s looking for you

But will it find you?
Can it find you?

Be brave in the woods
And the wolf won’t exist

Tell yourself there are no woods
And it’s just you and the wolf

The image of a sunrise
Goes well with the blood
Spotting the whipped white snow
Between the prints
Made by four
Perfect
Paws

Have you made it?

Have you made it
Past the deep dark fur
And the bone dry fangs
Looking for something
To pierce?

Or is there no wolf
Is the wolf
Not
There?

A howl snaps your neck
A growl turns your chin
You take a step
You retreat
You step

The cold reminds you
You’re alive
And that reminds you
That you
Have something
To lose

Something
That can be
Taken

You look through the trees
You blow hot air on your hands
You disappear, you think
But then you’re there

And there’s the wolf
Or is it?

Maybe it’s not
Maybe you’re not
Maybe the forest
Is just paper
And grass

And snow is a notion
And nothing to mind

You’re a thought
In a mind
That finds itself
Locked in
On the idea
Of a blood-thirsty
Something
That stalks
And steals

And that might be a wolf
Or it might just be…

You’re going to hear a wolf
Close your eyes
Hold your breath

Whistle out a prayer
And wander--

Wander
Wander
Wander

Wonder where it is
And if it’s eaten
Recently

The wolf can see you
But only if it’s there

If it’s there
Then stop
And wait

No point
In being brave

But if it’s not--

What then?

What then
Will you do

Where will
You wander to?

This is not a children’s story
This is not for the telling
Or the tellers
Or the wolf

Because there might not be a wolf

And if there is--

You’ll know