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Sam McCormick



I’ve never known where the start is, but

some men seem to have that all worked out.

The problem is I am not one of them, or maybe it isn’t a problem. Maybe

the problem is thinking that we have the same problems,

indicating we need the same solutions

and I look up from my sketchbook

to see you cooking with your weight on one leg.

The problem is the pierogies and the propane

and the party starting soon. The problem is you’re far away

burning down a Taco Bell and I can’t think

of what to say or what to do with my hands

all clenched. The problem is my jaw line indicating

my fear and the Men in Black joke indicating our age.

The problem is this exercise in memory. We haven’t the means,

there are only so many utensils in our lives at this present moment;

there is a man afraid of what he is.

I lost my notes, again; I haven’t handled anything with enough care.

I think there might be a mythical creature in my coffee, but

the taste doesn’t indicate that. How could it,

when there are men standing in a courtyard

at a university near you

screaming at homosexuals and free-thinkers

fire and brimstone and condemning your sons and daughters burn for eternity

for being whatever it is they are. The problem is the absurdity,

and it needs attending to. I need to be attending

to our sense of the room and its potential objects

so that I can pay attention to the way it feels to say something

from the hillside. The problem is

Redon’s cyclops painting and its stupid charm -

that giant smile, reminding me that I miss everyone so much.

The problem is that everyone looks familiar to me

even if they’re not. The problem is the cloud of cats phantasming

across the yard - their sumi-ink bodies are the problems - laughing at us.

I really am nervous: teachers on strike somewhere in America;

the children are sacred only in the mouth

of a sculpture, ready to be set on fire. What I mean to say is this:

the cashier at the counter will have to try and understand

whatever it is that falls out of my mouth.

The problem is my head is less interesting than a green apple,

and there is a caramel apple mic somewhere close by. You can see it

from the roof: the Chinese lanterns, burning up.

They were supposed to represent the problems; they looked so hopeful

and I have no idea what words to choose

for this particular void.

What type of person are you?

The problem is Rothko.

The problem is I look into the field and I can’t tell you what to do next.

The problem is our tendency to jump

from bridges into rocks,

even when the construction workers are watching us.

I am easy sick and so are my closest friends

and the problem is there isn’t a word that shows that power

- the particles quivering in the tiny spaces between us;

our backs to each other.

Sometimes I forget the fun of it,

I forget it pre-exists. Sometimes, the problem is practical.

You get back what you put into the world you occupy,

but the problem is everything

being imperfect including our facts

and our concept of perfection. I am human

and the ultimate problem as such is the being and the ending

to this poem or the fire licking the walls of my throat

while my throat is ultimately housing a bird

with tiny wet feathers.

The problem is we might all be gold miners, the pie

we are all here to eat might not belong to us yet, and the bird

is now a nuclear plant or a concentration camp;

a carnival ride for your perfect soul; it is perfect. I am a liar.

I think we might speak our reality

and this is the problem. Deploying or employing

our language - a missile or a mouse. A way to end the cycle includes:

putting down your stick, but they with their sticks, and you

with your hands up, hiding your face,

the glaze over their eyes,

and the problems between us all gathered together

look like a zombie. But what is a zombie,

but a sick human being in need. The problems of one sector

might be the solutions to our melting

polar ice caps or greedy hearts failing to pump real blood.

The artists eat their paint and the activists don’t have enough hands.

In poetry I can be wilder.

I can take the gravel and make strawberry jam

or within this minute the trees along the highways

can all burn to the ground.

There is dust and smoke here now,

while every jelly shoe I lost in the mud as a child

is glittering in the sun - causing this morning’s traffic;

this morning’s enjambment is a demonstration.

I’m hiding from all this in the awkward spaces left open

or none of it is happening .. The urge to fix a thing

we think is broken: it is not broken

or it needed breaking. The problem is the fear

crawling out from this deep muddy hole in the ground

with no answers. I bring you back before it all falls apart.

Right before, I dangle my legs over the edge

of the chasm created in my chemicals, you smile and I can breathe.

We plate the food and shift the weight around these injuries, once more.


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