Mike Dockins

Hey, what you said to me was inappropriate—

explicit graffiti scrawled on a temple wall

barked as slam poetry at the funeral

of an orphaned 9-year-old leukemia victim….

But perhaps you’re not to blame—

lately I’ve been intolerant of everything:

my empty, empty mailbox,

the voiceless planets, even my own skeleton,

whose grin I find galling.

I’ve considered punching out my own teeth

and mailing them to you—your city

which has never been bombed.

It’s chilly here, not that you care

where I am, or how chaos theory gurgles

in my kitchen sink—how the rickety towers

of plates could crush me. You couldn’t

imagine where I am

if I shoved a globe down your throat

and the globe settled in your womb

and next spring you gave birth to a geography whiz.

Hint: no coconut trees, no igloos.

Hint: interstates strung like attic cobwebs

between the city’s poles.

I’m somewhere in the middle, a place

as middling and boring as you found me—

my disinterest in eco-feminism,

in sweaty bus rides to the Capitol,

in vegan tirades, in weed.

I want to call you the hippest

dirty names, but I’ve been idling

in a non-specific mood.

The good news is, I kind of like this

non-specific glowering in your direction.

The bad news is, it’s moral—

I mean as a dilemma—

to ask my students to knock off

their bloody over-generalizing.

Their sleepy spittle will be the end of civilization!

Their children will be little amorphous blobs!

But gin-soaked at noon,

I told them what you said to me,

and they gasped, so I gave them all A’s.

Their collective gasp sounded like atoms

splitting, but without the mushroom cloud and fire

and shadows blasted into temple walls.

There are no temple walls here,

despite the many temples.

I can’t explain how this works,

but I can’t explain lots of things:

how your cat will live to be 100

like my senile, broken-hipped great-grandmother,

how vowels drop like pinballs

from your flapping tongue, drop

straight through the Earth….

I turned what you said to me into haiku.

Having no pastoral Japanese river handy,

I floated them along a gutter

pregnant with rainwater.

I turned what you said to me into origami

sparrows, then crumpled them

because they were too specific,

and in that crumpling I heard your voice—

like a bird’s, wings crushed—whistling

above my crumpled, crumpled city.

A native New Yorker, Mike currently lives in Atlanta where he is completing a PhD at Georgia State University. He holds an MFA from UMASS Amherst. His first book, Slouching in the Path of a Comet, was published by Sage Hill Press in 2007. His poems have appeared in numerous journals, including the 2007 edition of The Best American Poetry. His favorite contemporary poet is probably Dean Young, his favorite literary devices are hyperbole and irony, his favorite new time-suck is Facebook, and his favorite new band is Fire Flies. Since 1996, Mike has been writing songs and playing guitar in his own band, Clop.