Denise Duhamel >

America

I pledge my grievance
to Einstein’s Bagels
in the Mall of America
and to the Banana Republic
next to which it stands
one Benetton Nation under The Gap
in flat screen digital
with The Limited and Justin Timberlake
for All-Temperature Cheer. 



 
 


Warning
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A very small percentage of readers may develop a sensitivity to this poem. This 
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This poem contains caffeine.
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   poisoning.
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This poem contains ical known to cause birth defects.
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The reading of this poem does not enable you to fly.



 

        
 

Presidential Warranty

Thank you for purchasing this President! To activate this warranty, please return this document,
within seven business days of his inauguration ceremony, along with the barcode of your 
fingerprints and your voter registration card. Your President is warranted by the United States
of America, a division of Enron Corporation and Haliburton. We authorize no government
official to change or add any of the President's obligations under this warranty. His obligations
for service and parts under this warranty must be performed by Enron Corporation or
Haliburton or an authorized United States corporation that funded his campaign.
                    THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, THROUGH ITS AUTHORIZED
                    SERVERS, WILL:
                    1. Provide a replacement for any defective President due to faulty heating
                    elements, deteriorated silicone seal, or cracks caused by thermal breakage
                    (but not those caused by voter abuse).
                    2. Provide any replacement parts for President when said President's
                    malfunctioning is caused by his trim, shelves, or decorative parts.
                    NORMAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE VOTER:
                    This warranty applies only to Presidents in ordinary Presidential use, and
                    the voter is responsible for the following:
                    1. Proper use of this President in accordance with instructions provided
                    by this President and his administration.
                    2. Proper installation of this President in accordance with instructions
                    provided by the Supreme Court.
                    3. Proper connection to a grounded power supply of sufficient voltage
                    and money, replacement of blown fuses, repair of loose connections or
                    defects in White House wiring.
                    4. Diagnostic costs and any transportation costs to service this President.
                    5. Replacement of light bulbs and/or fluorescent tubes (for those
                    Presidents with such features).
                    EXCLUSIONS:
                    This president is guaranteed for up to four years from date of purchase, excluding:
                    1. Consequential or incidental damages such as property damage (in the
                    United States or anywhere else on the globe) and incidental expenses 
                    resulting from any breach of this written or any implied warranty. 
                    Specifically, President will not be held responsible for damages in times of war.
                    2. A call to arms which does not involve provable malfunction or defects
                    in said President. The voter shall always pay for all such calls to arms.
                    3. Damages caused by services performed by persons other than
                    authorized Presidential servicers; use of parts other than Enron Genuine
                    Replacement Presidential Parts; or causes such as Presidential abuse of
                    power, Presidential misuse of power, voter's inadequate power supply, or
                    acts of God. 
4. Presidents with original serial numbers that have been removed or
altered and cannot be readily determined.
Keep a copy of the bill of goods you've been sold or some other appropriate payment record to
establish this warranty, should service be required. If service is performed, it is in your best
interest to obtain and keep all receipts. This warranty gives you specific limited rights. You may
also have other rights (or be denied other rights) that vary from state to state. Service under this
warranty must be obtained by contacting the President or an authorized Presidential server: 
George Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW Washington, DC 20500
Phone Number: 202-456-1414
Presidential features or specifications as described or illustrated are subject to change
without notice. This warranty applies only to the 50 states of the U.S.A. and Puerto Rico.
 
Commonly Asked Questions About The Afterlife™

Welcome to The Afterlife™! We understand your giddiness as you come to understand your
new weightlessness, but before floating around willy nilly, please read everything included in
your “getting acquainted” packet. Family and friends already here can provide supplies and
information for the care and maintenance of your new “non body.” Please consult our
welcoming committee and read our “commonly asked questions” listed below before calling
our hotline.
1. Why are there bubbles coming out of the place where my mouth used to be?
This is generally a result of life/death imbalance. Once your soul has cycled and is bought
back into balance, the bubbling should end. A being usually takes a month or so to completely
cycle into The Afterlife™, and during this time, you should refrain from gulping beverages that
contain carbonation. Another common cause for bubbling is that your human body was retaining
water at time of your death. 
2. My vision is cloudy. Why?
This is another common condition in new souls. Try to resist rubbing the place where your eyes
used to be and let your new Afterlife™ vision come to you on its own. You can’t trip or walk into
walls here, so you are safe to flutter about while your eyes adjust. 
3. I feel hot. Do I have a temperature?
No. There is no body temperature in The Afterlife™ as you no longer have a body. Your soul is
most probably still seeking its proper balance. Avoid direct sunlight and flying too quickly.
4. How long should I wait before trying to contact my loved ones who are still alive?
If you have thoroughly followed all the directions in your “getting acquainted” packet, you should
stabilize quickly and be ready to return in a short time. You can request (in writing) a meeting
with Your Maker™ who will test your ability to visit your relatives in their dreams, appear as an
apparition, or lend your voice to a seance. We strongly recommend that you follow Your
Maker™ ’s advice. We know that many of you are anxious to return to the land of the living, but
we want to be sure that your attempts will be successful. Many new to The Afterlife™ wind up
only hiding a set of car keys rather than seeking forgiveness or providing solace.
5. Why do I still feel as though I need to go to the bathroom?
Although you no longer have bodily functions, you will occasionally have phantom urges in that
area. This is completely normal. Squat, push, follow your instincts. Once you realize for yourself
that you no longer produce waste, your phantom urges should subside.

Our goal here in The Afterlife™ is to provide you—the now dead—with a unique, convenient,
and easy-to-maintain Afterlifestyle™. While we employ the strictest quality control
procedures in the industry, we cannot be responsible for the negligent behavior of any of our
new arrivals. Though you are in many ways, having given up your bodies, indestructible,
certain precautions should be maintained. For example, do not attempt to apply these
Afterlife™ guidelines in other afterlife matrixes. Also, do not attempt to repair yourself: float
instead to the nearest service center. If you do decide to buy wings, make sure they are
compatible with your Afterlife™ belief system.



 

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How much poetry is too much? 
____reading one poem a day 
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Poetry is a....
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Poem is best pronounced....
____pome (long o, silent e, one syllable)
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*Prize has no cash value, per se. Winners must supply their own transportation.We cannot
vouch for civility of poets the winner meets on his/her trip.



 

Nonliterary Forms

In keeping with SEGUE's spirit—that of trying to capture "the transition from one thing to another," the poems here appropriate forms of quotidian writing in attempt to use them as honest-to-goodness poetic forms. What do the warnings on household items have to do with the warnings as to the "dangers" of a poem? How are questions commonly asked by Hawkeye International Fishtank™ buyers like those questions the newly dead might ask when they arrive to The Aferlife™ ? Might the President of the United States come with a warranty not unlike the one that comes with an electric stove? Can we really mumble something else under our breaths during The Pledge of Allegiance? Will anyone notice? And finally, what if literary magazines came with reader satisfaction questionnaires like those provided by fashion magazines like Elle and Marie Claire?

The surrealist writer Jean-Claude Silbermann was the first to employ such a "Directions for Use" style of writing, blending the language of household labels with abstract concepts. One of his poems called "Death" includes these lines:

          Remove the self-preserving seal, hold DEATH vertically
          upwards, and apply by pressing the stopper.

And:

          Apply DEATH liberally around the edges of a room, near
          skirting-boards, in cracks of the floor, in any dark cranny.

Silbermann's poems were based on substitution and finding the right combination of the utilitarian and sublime. Charles Bernstein, adapting from Bernadette Mayer's Experimental list Poets' Ludicrously Aimless Yearning (PLAY), has endorsed poems that take the shape of "nonliterary forms" and suggests that poets write an index, a table of contents, a travel guide, a quiz or examination. Most recently, Maureen Seaton has made a poem in the form of a recipe; David Lehman and Paul Muldoon have made poems in the form of errata; Paul Violi has made a poem in the form of a TV Guide entry; and Nick Carbó has made a poem out of a resumé. Nin Andrews' prose poem "Do Not Ignore This" takes the form of a chain letter and begins:

          This pussy has been sent to you. This pussy has been around the
          world seven times. You will receive luck within six days of receiving
          this pussy...

Such poems, it seem to me, challenge and enlarge the whole idea of formal poetry. Why a sonnet instead of a grocery list? Or why not a grocery list in sonnet form? Why not a book on a Rolodex? Why not poems (haiku?) made up of names and addresses?

It is the postmodern gesture to combine high and low art, which basically combines poetry (high art) and most everything else (low art) beside opera and museums. The use of nonliterary forms is particularly helpful for writing political poetry, which often runs the risk of being didactic. François Le Lionnais in his "First Manifesto" of the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle" or, in English, "Workshop for Potential Literature") writes that "Every literary work begins with an inspiration (at least that's what its author suggests" which must accommodate itself as well as possible to a series of constraints and procedures..." I was struggling to write about George Bush, my fears of war, and my anxiety, but it was not until I placed him in the context of a "Presidential Warranty" did I feel I could control what I had to say. I like to think that these "constraints and procedures," as Le Lionnais calls them, imposed by the formal language of a warranty, kept my poem from becoming a rant. Political poetry is not very effective when it preaches to the converted or relies on slogan or cliché, but the idea of voters having a warranty that wouldn't cover replacing Bush's light bulbs and/or fluorescent tubes really spoke to me.

The use of nonliterary forms also democratizes and popularizes poetry in a certain way. That there would be such a questionnaire asking readers to rate poems as described in "Customer Satisfaction" implies a large scale readership for poetry (that, of course, doesn't exist). Poetry hasn't been exactly dangerous since Plato wrote in The Republic that "Crucial indeed is the struggle, more crucial than we think—the choice that makes us good or bad—to keep faithful to righteousness and virtue in the face of temptation, be it of fame or money or power, or of poetry—yes, even of poetry." Yet the poem "Warning" attempts to elevate poetry to a place where it is taken as seriously as Plato took it, a place where it is so powerful warnings must be heeded while reading it. Conversely, death and the afterlife, both lofty concepts, are neutralized in "Commonly Asked Questions about the Afterlife™," a poem in which the Afterlife is more like a condominium with rules and regulations than a nebulous spiritual place.

—Denise Duhamel
March 21, 2003
Hollywood, FL