Joshua Lavender earned a B.A. English Literature at Georgia College & State University and an M.F.A. Poetry at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he now serves as a communications coordinator for the College of Education. His poems have previously appeared in Free State Review, Able Muse, Town Creek Poetry, and The Southern Poetry Anthology.
And here, to interrupt a rambling tour
of dreary rooms and shadowy passages,
the poet throws an unsuspected door
open on light. The scope of sight explodes.
The slightest pause, but world enough and time
to touch the relics, see the frescoed walls,
gape at the vaulted roof of archetype.
You have to wonder, though, why has the room
turned out to be a dirty kitchen, strewn
with unwashed pans, plates, cups, and tupperware?
And what are all these creatures doing here?
Is this a kitchen or a menagerie?
An aardvark hides his snout inside a pot,
a departmental troop of ants advances
on a sugar tin left open overnight,
an elephant is staring down a mouse.
The zoo is not the worst of it, not with
the poet’s daddy issues, symbolized
by Clem Kadiddlehopper beating eggs.
He whisks with vigor, bleating sheepishly
for Shirley, who reclines against the fridge
browsing a J.C. Penney catalog—
the poet’s mother? metaphor of loss?—
to see if she can find the sassafras.
What’s more perplexing, somehow, is the cloud
of consonants that hovers overhead:
abundant P’s and S’s. “Plenary”
and “stoic” are particularly loud.
Why all this thunder? Can’t the poet hear
the roar his diction makes? And why these lines,
why these atrocious, willy-nilly breaks?
Did the poet set the meter loose?
But what a short reprieve—caesura: space
of breath—to think about all this. Besides,
the cat has crept into your Morris chair.
She wildly flicks her tail against the page.
She won’t be satisfied until she’s fed.
And come to think of it, you still have stacks
of dishes in the kitchen, trash to haul
out to the curb before your wife comes home.
You close the door and see the reader off
with iambs waving from the final line.
How tiresome, writing poems! How unlike
your stoic, plenary, and mythic life.
My landlady, scrubbing peaches in the sink,
suggests I fib on my résumé. I balk
at such an idea. But she’s right, I think.
Here’s the problem: I’m outmoded. I’ve spent
all morning listing skills and experience,
but looking at it, I feel anachronistic.
How Kipling felt, perhaps, as industry
consumed nature, leaving no place for men
like Mowgli—close-to-earth, romantic beings.
I’m typing this on an old Smith Corona,
dot-matrix paper. Corduroy jackets hang
on the coat tree next to my beat-up cane,
and on a nearby table a pocket-watch ticks.
Job descriptions give me anxiety attacks.
I’d like to reinvent myself to work:
grant writing, educational leadership—
even a carpenter’s touch would bless me.
Not a bookworm or poet, nothing archaic,
nothing that says I’m frivolous or messy.
Even Mowgli at last left the wolf-pack
and chased the spring running in his blood,
the path that led him back to the human brood.
Man belongs with man, with his own age.
And I need timely work, some worthwhile gain.
Instead I have this page, its marginal pain—
looking back, and so eager to look again.
ALLUSION IN A GREASY SPOON
I am not the best egg and cheese sandwich ever made.
I cannot be a perfect sandwich. I have seen,
In my brief, sandwichy life, things you cannot imagine.
Though I have seen a head of lettuce
(grown slightly limp) brought in upon a platter,
I am no BLT—and here’s no great splatter;
I have seen the flint of the gas stove flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Grill Cook hold the mayo, and snicker,
And in short, I was sautéed.