If you’ve ever thought of a child, you are party
to the creation of a child. Digital cymbals
resembling applause alert the stadium crowd
when applause is necessary.
I’ve got burns to prove I’m human, that I am
vulnerable to the standard items
on hurt’s itinerary. Give me an inch
or give me a great many inches, I’ll bend.
Have we hurt someone? Have we meant
to hurt someone? Have we loved behind backs
of those we loved and then caused hurt? Are
we hurt? Is it desirable to be able to hurt?
To bring a care to deliver a touch we
are not the only members of a particular party
couples who look at new angles who leave
in new combinations how exhilarating others think
The exploded fantasy. I’ve wanted to live only
in a particular drum loop, a voice sample.
The rock musician
on the late night talk show throws a cup of
his saliva into the audience to feverish
grasps from women, men.
I mixed up our looks, I’m sorry.
The mother died. Then the father died. Then
the sister died. When the brother died we
laughed, though we didn’t mean to. Then
the attending physician died. We checked our keys.
I got permission it was ok to say those things
to make those things happen bodies becoming
game pieces for a brief moment the heat
contained in the car’s cabin snow gently falling
Falling gently the transference of heat not
increasing the energy of the system bodies
silly modes of thought and hurt come quickly
there is somebody waiting for us with great news
Is the poison incurable? Is it
naturally made? Where does
nature end, and where does
the body begin? Have we been
engaged in the performance
repetitively and forcibly? Has
the audience asked us for
more, thrown grocery store
roses at our feet? Do they
recognize the melancholy
we seek to replicate? Do we
seek it if we do not know we
are engaged in seeking? The
curtains, have they been
weighted so that the A/C does
not move them, forbids them
from interfering with our
scene of American malaise?
It’s funny, it’s supposed to be
comedy and yet why does
the audience wipe tears from
their eyes? Was it the dedication
before the show, to the dead
who did not wish to die, to
the dead who did wish to die?
The audience is being filmed
for home video, they too are
prompted with signs indicating
laughter, melancholy, must we
credit them as performers
in the credits? The poison,
it is not lethal, it is only a
diuretic, but is it funny that
there is only one toilet available,
backstage, for performers only?
In my life I am sad, but onstage
my sadness wins awards
for its realism. What melodrama!
Was I sad before I learned these
lines, or did I absorb my
character’s sadness? It is so
sad, to be trapped in an
American drama, where no
success is enough, where friends
and loved ones die and nobody
ever has their full dreams
realized – who wrote it? I
was given the script but it
only has my lines, no cover
sheet, is that a violation of
the Writers’ Guild guidelines?
Somebody applauds but the
curtain has not lowered, we
have not reached the resolution.
Shall we improvise? Shall
we engage in fury and fire?
Glenn Shaheen is the author of the poetry collections Predatory (U of Pitt Press, 2011), and Energy Corridor (U of Pitt Press, 2016), and the flash fiction chapbook Unchecked Savagery (Ricochet Editions, 2013). Individual pieces have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Ploughshares, The New Republic, and elsewhere.