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Duplex

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“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?

Duplex

            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.

 

Idle

 

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.

Brick duplex

(Jim Roberts, Wikimedia Commons)

“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.​

On this edition of the Poets Weave, Alberto reads "Duplex," "Idle," and "Compendium for Leaving Work at 11pm, the Summer I Move Out."

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