Poems

Jennifer Michael Hecht

 

Please Answer All Three of the Following Essay Questions

I
What would it take to make you
what you truly want to be and why will no one
cooperate with you on these visions you have
of yourself, when it would be so easy for them
to finally acknowledge that you are the demon
ruler of this island world and that all we eat
here is pickled herring that we harvest
from sycamore trees in the plenitude
of summer and load into mason jars for the lean
months of the cold? Do these men and women,
your subjects, fear you more than they love you?
And what is it that they fear? Use a logical
proof; show your work.

II
If someone wanted to make you
slap them, hard, would it be better for him or
her to say that your father didn’t like to hear you
sing, or to say that your mother purposefully pricked
her finger and bled into the coleslaw she brought
to the physics-department picnics every year
because, despite her smile and gala disposition,
she had no taste for any of it, not for your father,
nor for you, nor for the logic of time and space
and so she made them drink her sorrow
with their cabbage? Explain your answer.
Are you aware you cannot save anyone from dying?

III
Why do you waste so much time considering
the juxtaposition of the perceived endlessness
of a moment and the micro-elapsement of a year?
Clearly there is nothing you can do about it and yet,
overcome with love for your friends and family
you neither run to them constantly and weep for them,
kissing their cast-off running shoes like a minor apostle,
nor do you refuse to answer the question “how are you”
ever again, certain that you don’t know what it means?
By now you must recognize that rational
truth is unbearable and impossible to live by
and that everything possible and bearable is,
of necessity, a logical mess incorporating lies as well
as contradictory truths. And yet you just go along,
making phone calls, hanging curtains, letting the slanting sun
before twilightshift your thoughts,
riding the subway, sweeping the hallway,
and you watch TV, don’t you, and go to the bank, eat
ice cream, call the cable guy, why do you do it
when you are so keenly aware of the impossibility
of your goals given the obdurate
resistance of such material? Try
to answer as completely as possible; time.


Villanelle If You Want to Be a Bad-Ass

You will not be rewarded for remaining long the same.
You will, of course, be taunted if you ever try to change.
When trainers wander off, tigers, please do not stay tame.

Consistency is worse, it brings the wrong kind of fame.
The orbit of right action has a freakin’ woolly range.
You will not be rewarded for remaining long the same.

It, inertia, is a pity. It, stagnation, is a shame. Yet you
yourself preach caution as you pace your unlocked cage:
“When trainers wander off, tigers, please do not. Stay tame.”

Be a mountain if you want to, be the whole mountain range.
Will you, in turn, be hostage to your hostage on the page?
You will not. Be rewarded for remaining long the same?

You can say what you want when the angel makes you lame.
You can wrestle against water, you can rape your own rage
(when trainers wander off). Tigers, please do not stay tame.

As hard as bleeding a tree to death by cut and squeezing, change
from out of the gut of the rut’s range will be insanely hard.
But you will not be rewarded for remaining long the same,
when trainers wander off, tigers, please do not stay tame.


History

Even Eve, the only soul in all of time

to never have to wait for love,

must have leaned some sleepless nights

alone against the garden wall

and wailed, cold, stupefied, and wild

and wished to trade in all of Eden

to have but been a child.

In fact, I gather that is why she leapt and fell from grace,

that she might have a story of herself to tell

in some other place.


Love Explained

Guy calls the doctor, says the wife’s
contractions are five minutes apart.
Doctor says,Is this her first child?
guy says,No, it’s her husband.

I promise to try to remember who
I am. Wife gets up on one elbow,

says, I wanted to get married.
It seemed a fulfillment of some

several things, a thing to be done.
Even the diamond ring was some

thing like a quest, a thing they
set you out to get and how insane

the quest is; how you have to turn
it every way before you can even

think to seek it; this metaphysical
refraining is in fact the quest. Who’d

have guessed? She sighs, I like
the predictability of two, I like

my pleasures fully expected,
when the expectation of them

grows patterned in its steady
surprise. I’ve got my sweet

and tumble pat. Here on earth,
I like to count upon a thing

like that. Thus explained
the woman in contractions

to her lover holding on
the telephone for the doctor

to recover from this strange
conversational turn. You say

you’re whom? It is a pleasure
to meet you. She rolls her

eyes, but he’d once asked her
Am I your first lover?and she’d
said,Could be. Your face looks
familiar.It’s the same type of

generative error. The grammar
of the spoken word will flip, let alone

the written, until something new is
in us, and in our conversation.


Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of seven books, including Doubt: A History (HarperCollins, 2003) and the poetry books The Next Ancient World (Tupelo Press, 2001) and Funny (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of seven books, including "Doubt: A History' (HarperCollins, 2003) and the poetry books 'The Next Ancient World' (Tupelo Press, 2001) and 'Funny' (University of Wisconsin Press, 2005).


  Please Answer All Three of the Following Essay Questions I What would it take to make you what you truly want to be and why will no one cooperate with you on these visions you have of yourself, when it would be so easy for them to finally acknowledge that you are the demon …

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