“A civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.” —James Baldwin
Alberto Sveum is an MFA candidate in Poetry at Indiana University Bloomington, where he also serves as the Editor-In-Chief of Indiana Review. He received his B.A. in English and Philosophy from the University of Northern Iowa.
Welcome to the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Alberto, what poems have you brought for us today?
after Jericho Brown
The duplex divides its occupants, mother
and son, into mildewed rooms, crumbling space.
No sun in mildewed rooms. Crumbling spaces
make poor containers for compassion.
Make these poor containers of compassion
a place to writhe, a floorplan to unravel.
Caved-in tiling, no footing to untangle
the aching years of blue caesuras,
some eighteen years of cruel etceteras,
but, for whatever reason, she still calls.
For whatever reason, she still calls him
“son,” though they were only close for so long.
Son, we are only close for so long.
The duplex divides its occupants.
Your pomade has made us leave the apartment late
for our second semester of undergrad.
Your Honda is slow to roll over
in the Iowa morning. (brr! brr!)
While we are far from trapping out the bando, (bando!)
Migos hurriedly defrosts the windows.
Your hands, under oversized gloves, adjust
the radio knobs, the aux cord, frozen solid, your baton.
Later, you will cradle so many forties in those hands.
You will hold slices of half-hearted pizza, but not
eat them. The oily slabs will decline to the floor and eventually,
I will throw them away. I will write a poem about this labor.
A poem of inconvenience. Not a statement of understanding,
but just a statement. I will skrt your urging (skrt! skrt!)
for me to listen to Migos. But many nights I will hear them
from the phone in your palm,
as you sit alone in the living room. The car idles,
I do not think of how immediate, how quick,
Offset, Quavo, or Takeoff sound, nor how they hype
one another up. I do not reach across the poem,
and cover your hands with mine.
What is the ad-lib for trying again? ( )
Compendium for Leaving Work at 11pm, the Summer I Move Out:
there’s the chalky sweat slick
behind my earlobes still
and my hand out
the passenger side deflated
because minimum wage
isn’t minimum effort. Tonight
Mom says less than the Dairy Queen’s
lights lazing out across marred parking lot.
Count my shin and ankle bruise
from cantankerous shopping
carts. Each snarled seam
every shelf grumbling
with excess a polemic of plastics
and failing cloth. Mom is maybe
an hour removed from sleep
a month or two from leaving Iowa too.
You can read it in her eyelids. I can’t
count the folds anymore the stoplight
flickers. The hardware
store hovers in its steely corner.
We smell them over the Cedar
the bridge overcast the crackle
under the tires the sordid mayflies
aghast in July swell.
You've been listening to the poetry of Alberto Sveum on the Poets Weave. I'm Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.