Claudia Grinnell >

Ars Poetica
But Not Its Origins
The Obedient Body




Ars Poetica

Humans, chimps should be in same genus (

Is that worth talking about, worth memorializing
In some important way, as if a hero had fallen
In honorable battle? Should poems debase
Themselves to such manner, in such eyebrow
Raising behavior? Well, should they, fucker?
I am tempted here to italicize fucker and add
An ! after the ? My boyfriend insists
I am screaming, which I don’t understand at all
Since I am sitting here quietly typing. Of course
My boyfriend is a clever man, or so he says.
He says poems need imagery, he says that
In a threatening way which could get him
Arrested in several states. But as I was saying before
Truth broke it, a poem’s carriage should be dignified
And serene, offer high tea to the senses, make mellow
The agitated mind. And some will agree, will vilify
The wanton irony. And some will stand above it, magnanimous
And strong. And somehow some will slither between
Those two worlds to ring my doorbell with a pickaxe.


But Not Its Origins

It’s tough driving through Houston, the old man says
And the young girl agrees, most likely humoring him
Or making conversation, making sounds to fill the great
Void, or the little one, the one that loses one white sock.
After forty years of marriage you’d think no big deal, but
A sock by the end of the night transmogrifies into lack
Of love, or money, or children or sometimes just roses
On a birthday. Something’s missing in all these exchanges
Or so the aggrieved party will tell you. The other party
Agrees and together they set out to find the missing thing
Which as yet lacks a name because to name it is to give it
Power and we don’t want more of that. So we engage in
Low-level radiation experiments to get to the core of this.
Well, I say ‘we’ – I should be honest, it’s me. The kid’s
Drowned in a flashflood. Makeshift ropes hang from bridges
And people in hip boots wade into swirling, brown, bubbling
Back wash. But nothing but rocks, small trees, and the occasional
Beer bottle returns to the surface. We are all in this now, some
Of us at home, safe, beer on a coaster, whips attractively
Displayed. For the rest it’s a long cold night (which is
What happens when you have children. So young—thus most
Clamp down on this particular inspirational offering. Every
Good boy deserves fruit. The kid’s still missing, three days
Now, it’s still raining, it’s been raining fourteen days.
Boys and girls get kissed and put to bed, flashlights shine
A little light on the water. Farmers now worry about their crop,
And insurance adjusters crisscross the state giving estimates.
Tomorrow is the first day of summer, heat and it will come
Later, in my secret live—today I just smile; I do what I have to
To get by. Someone wants you thinking it’s that simple.


The Obedient Body

The Fritos have run out. There’s a house left
to clean. Anna invents herself in a 57 Chevy.
And I swear to you, finds herself on her knees, gathering
treasures from looted palaces. She's been keeping track
of the men since Stalingrad. Here a body, there a body,
they all have yellowing nails, even the optometrist, even
the newborns. A little dockside hanky panky involving arms
dealers. The legs came later. It had to be done like that
because it looked good on camera. The neighbors
never suspected, never once wondered about the thick rubber
bags, the rumpled bed, the dark glasses. First came the denials,
then an investigation (inconclusive). My perfect fingernail curves
toward Anna on the telly before the stars and stripes. She made
a quilt like that once; its hung in a quilt museum, one of only two
on the West coast. People pay four bucks a head to see her
quilt. Not on Sundays though, on Sunday this quaint little town
devises ways to swallow its neighbors, to grow to the edge
of the floodplain. Exactly how much culture does one need—
this was discussed for an evening at the local community
college. Engineers were thought to need less, for the obvious
reasons: no one wanted their right angles turned left.