Monday Jun 24

KirbyDavidcreditBarabaraHamby David Kirby is the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor of English at Florida State University and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation as well as three University Teaching Awards (1992, 1997, 2012) and a University Distinguished Teaching Award (2007). His collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense.” His most recent poetry collection is The Biscuit Joint. His website can be found here.


A Hail of Crockery

It’s late, and the fellows have had a few too many,
                        but what else is new? We’re talking about our breakups,
            and we’re all in awe of the one who somehow manages
to keep his exes as friends, because the rest of us can’t
                        stand the horrible bitches we used to adore, which feeling
is mutual, I’m so sure, and when my turn comes, I say,

“Yeah, I always left in a hail of crockery,” and there’s
                        a big roar of laughter. Then again, there always is.
            Get the picture? Guy lips off, girl gives as good as she
gets, and the next thing you know, he’s out the door,
                        dishes whizzing past his shoulders. Cut it out, ladies!
We’re not so bad. Actually, we are, or you wouldn’t

be breaking up with us. I guess he wanted to go out
                        more and she wanted to go out less or the other way
            around. Or he wanted zero kids and she wanted five
or the other way around. Or he said Let’s watch
                        the playoffs and she said Let’s watch Pride and
Prejudice for the seventh time or the other way around—

okay, not that one. But there’s a third path or third way
                        or third something, according to the Buddhists. Or is it
            the Canadians? Wait, here it is: the term “third way” refers
to “various political positions which try to reconcile right-
                        and left-wing politics through a synthesis of right-wing
economic policies and left-wing social policies.” Sounds

complicated! There’s also “third position” or “third
                        alternative, which refers to a revolutionary nationalist
            political stance that emphasizes—oh, wait, Mussolini
advocated that one, so we’re against it. Let’s see what iconic
                        American bluesman Son House has to say on the subject.
He says I get up in the morning with the blues three

different ways, I have two minds to leave and one that
                        says to stay. Boy, does that ever sound right! And now
            let’s hear from iconic American novelist Henry James,
who once gave this advice to his nephew, Billy: "There
                        are three things that are important in life. The first is to
be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”

Easy for you to say, Henry! Forgiveness is a beautiful
                        thing: “I made mistakes and you did, too, but I’m going to
            concentrate on the good times and hope you can find it
in your heart to do the same, no hard feelings.” But who
                        wants to hear that? Besides, think of all the money you’ll
save. Gas, meals, movie tickets, new underwear, regular

haircuts: you won’t have to waste your pennies on any
                        of that stuff for at least six months. The fellows are getting
            restless; Thomas goes to get another beer, and Mark pours
himself an inch of bourbon, and Dave and the Other Mark
                        are talking about football and whether or not the new
recruiting class will make a difference or whether we’ll

just grind out another 7-5 season and “wait till next year.”
                        They don’t want to hear about absolution, amnesty,
            la clemenza di Tito: no, no, they want the man legging it
out the door like a guy in an R. Crumb cartoon, the woman
                        waving her arm in the air like an Old Testament heroine
preparing to decapitate some tyrant, only instead of a sword,

she’s brandishing a sugar bowl, and there’s an arc of cheap
                        tableware over the guy’s head: pie plate, coffee mug,
            saucer, that cereal bowl he’d brought with him from grad
school, the one he’d thought about throwing away more
                        than once because it had a chip in the rim, but he’d had it
a long time, and besides, he likes it better this way.

Loud and Sarcastic in the Hotel Hallway

“I don’t work all week so you can leave your wet suits and towels
                        all over the furniture,” he says, then
            “Can’t you turn out the bathroom light when you’re
through in there?” as well as “Why do you have to shop
                        at the hotel stores when everything’s so much cheaper
elsewhere,” all of which is to the point, surely, but why

do I need to hear it, especially at seven in the morning
                        when I’m trying to sleep after an evening of drinks
            and fine dining while he, the good husband and father,
no doubt took his brood to a “family restaurant” where
                        they dined on chicken tenders and fries and drank from
watery dishpans of Coke and Pepsi? That’s probably it:

he’d be in a better mood if he’d had roasted sea scallops
                        on a creamy leek-spinach reduction and a nice bottle
            of Puligny-Montrachet followed by a single scoop
of blackberry-basil gelato instead of the Chocolate
                        Monster Frappucino Shake with Oreo Cookie Crumbles
that lurched from one side of his stomach to the other

all night as he rolled around in bed and fretted about
                        his crabby and increasingly critical boss, the hurtful thing
            his father said to him when he struck out during that
Little League game so many years ago, the knock he keeps
                        hearing in the car engine that will surely cost hundreds
to fix when they get back—that is, if they get back.

And his wife didn’t mean to, but just as he was about
                        to fall asleep, she kicked him; why’d she have to order
            the Crispy Cinnamon-Dusted Apple Dumpling with Real
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Our Signature Silky Caramel
                        Sauce? He hates her. No, he loves her, loves the kids,
crazy about Elvis, loves Jesus and America, too.

No, he hates her, hates everybody, hates himself, damn it.
                        Yet only a day before, I had been in the Museum
            of Modern Art, where I paused before Alighiero e Boetti’s
“Tapestry of the Thousand Longest Rivers in the World”
                        and read the plaque that says “in 1968 Alighiero Boetti
changed his name by inserting an ‘e’ (‘and’ in Italian)

between his first and last names to indicate that he (and, by extension,
                        anyone) was not a single but
            a multiple self,” and as I read, other museum-goers
came up, and they all broke out laughing,
                        so happy were they about either their own
multiple selves or the stupidity of the statement or, more likely, both,

since nothing is more amusing than a statement that is at once
                        true and stupid. Part of me wants
            to rush naked across the hall and scare the crap out of you,
but the other part realizes I would only be scaring myself.
                        Too, the you who is being scared
might actually like it, or maybe one of your multiple selves would.

When I was in high school, I was no good at football, and one day
                        Coach Garland said to me, “You’re a gentle boy,
            David,” though all I wanted to do was kill people on that field.
Look, I have an idea. Why don’t we go down and have
                        breakfast together? I turned that waffle iron
on and off a dozen times yesterday, and I still couldn’t get it to work.

I Don’t Know Anybody Named Russell But Still

Phone rings and a young woman’s voice says Hi
            and I say Hi and she says How are you and I say Fine

and she says I'm pregnant and I say Great and she says
            I wanted you to be the first to know and I say Thank you

and she says So how are you taking it and I say
            You know I'd know how to take it if I knew who

you were and she says You know who I am
            and I say Really I don't and she says I'm your best friend

and I say Well then who am I and she says You know
            who you are and I say I do but who do you think I am

and she says You're Russell and I say No I’m not
            and she says You're not Russell and I say Sorry no

and she says Shoot I must have dialed the wrong number
            I’m sorry and I say That’s okay listen best of luck with that

pregnancy and she says Oh thank you and then
            Bye now and I say Bye and we hang up and I wait for

my heart to stop pounding because even though
            I don’t remember getting any strangers pregnant I can’t help

thinking Oh shit my wife is going to kill me
            though when I calm down a little I think of all the ways

this conversation might have gone like her
            saying Of course you remember me we met at a party

a couple of months ago and you said I was
            a real good sport or if the whole thing was a joke

and five minutes from now the phone would ring
            and a guy’s voice would say Hi this is Russell have there

been any calls for me and then suddenly I’m really
            happy that neither of my sons is named Russell or for that

matter anyone I know and then I think Russell you’re
            about to get a phone call buddy I hope you're sitting down


photo credit for David Kirby to Barbara Hamby