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I Wanted to Compose a Canticle of Exaltation and Praise, Stupid University Job

I Wanted to Compose a Canticle of Exaltation and Praise
for Todd Colby

Thank you for asking me to submit to your magazine,
Dead Fluffy Coyote,

but I haven’t been writing much poetry lately.

I’ve been rockin’.

Or, I should say, rockin’ again.

Because I used to rock.

I started rockin’ at the age of ten,

me and my sister sitting with Dad in the Rambler,

watching the planes take off and land.

In fact, that’s where I first rocked:

in that Rambler, with a transistor radio pressed to my ear.

And I rocked for a long time.

A pretty long fuckin’ time!

But then somebody came along and made me self-conscious about rockin’.

Somebody said my rockin’ was “anti-intellectual.”

They said I’d never get a tenure-track job teaching creative writing

at a university

if I didn’t stop rockin’.

So I stopped rockin’.

What was I thinking?

Didn’t I understand that, yes,

the heavy bombardment was a hellish environment

but also the natural condition of creation?

Oh, you brilliant neurotics, syphilitics, and hyperpriapic lead

guitarists—you knew.

Proust knew in his cork-lined room

that rockin’ arises afresh daily from every afflicted attitude,

and even not rockin’

forms a bridge between forgotten continents.

I may have epilepsy, brain atrophy, “milk leg,” bottleflies infesting

my eyes,

and the belief that my legs and arms are angry clowns,

but I’m rockin’ like a cross between Anna Akhmatova and Dolly Parton,

like broken post-Bolshevik teacups and flea markets.

Oh, too late came I to love you,

rockin’ so ancient and so new!

Oh Lucifer, light-bringer,

singer of our hymns to failure,

cut us loose from our tribal pieties,

our forebodings at what this new age means,

for we shall be known by new names.

And if our decency is fatigued

let us eat its meat with similar spoons.

Who knows the secrets of the universe,

whether Marilyn Monroe had 11 toes?

Rockin’ knows.

Like the bone at the beginning of “2001”,

what befell the beginning keeps befalling,

and something old and mostly forgotten

can rock the marginalized 50 million.

We’re always being asked to do the impossible,

and so now I’m asking you to rock.

I’m begging you to rock.

I have no doubts about your faults.

But your faults give birth to a dancing star.

Sure, harsh carcasses are criss-crossing the pit,

souls fluttering up the rotunda like confetti

but joy lurks there.

I know ‘cause I’ve been there.

It’s hard to get back what’s been forgotten.

But it’s easy to start rockin’.

Stupid University Job

Your loveliest of sway-backs;
of mine I was once ashamed,

and my uni-brow and crooked teeth,

and red hair my mother never let me wash

all winter,

afraid I’d catch a draft.

She wouldn’t let me bathe, either,

which made gym class a horror.

I thought I had it bad

until I met that handsome Scottish man

whose parents tried to make him spontaneously combust

by feeding him haggis laced with gunpowder

and making him sleep in the stove.

Instead of an ear, he had a shiny, snail-shaped ridge.

I guess we all have our tragic flaw.

Mine is like that of the naked man

who holds up a sign that says “I’m naked,”

and runs screaming through the park.

My handlers say I’m difficult,

but don’t you believe it.

My soul still radiates a luminous intensity

despite this stupid university job.


Sharon Mesmer

SHARON MESMER's most recent poetry collections are Annoying Diabetic Bitch (Combo Books, 2008) and The Virgin Formica (Hanging Loose, 2008). Fiction collections include Ma Vie a Yonago (Hachette, 2005) and In Ordinary Time (Hanging Loose, 2005).


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2005

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