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Noon Edition

We Forgive You

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A little hardship, a little sickness, a little mourning, a little failure, a lost job, or broken marriage will quickly clarify for us the function of poetry. Vale of tears, oh unreal city, dark world. Meet poetry. - Tony Hoagland

Joseph Kerschbaum has published eight collections of poetry and two spoken word albums. His most recent publications include Mirror Box, forthcoming from Main Street Rag in 2020, and Distant Shores of a Split Second, published by Louisiana Literature Press in 2018. Joseph lives in Bloomington with his family.

Welcome to the Poets Weave, I’m Romayne Rubinas Dorsey. Joseph what poems do you have for us today?

 

I Don’t Look Like Myself Today (all the lives i’ve never lead)
 

Our distracted glances connect

across a lunch-time cafe crowd.

With a swift flinch of recognition,

an unsure smile of disbelief widens

as you calculate the possibility of now.

Gasp as if you have seen a ghost.

Maybe you have. Stop

where you stand

in the murky middle

of your history

as the barista waits

for your order.

 

Wait for me

to have an equivalent reaction,

finish the sentence

you haven’t said yet. Start to speak,

expect to find each other

in the dense fog

of a shared memory,

then realize you’re alone.

I don’t know who you are.

 

Panic for a second

at the prospect of being

forgotten. Not even a footnote

in the meandering narrative

of someone’s life who made

an impact or least an impression

on your own. Step back

into this moment

with a stranger

who isn’t aware

that we lost cabin pressure

but oxygen is flowing again.

 

Take a breath

as we arrive at the other side

of this stunted exchange.

This misplaced person

who casts a similar shadow as me

has not traversed whatever

chasm of time and space

so they could be standing

happenstance in a coffee shop -

but for a few swift heartbeats,

miracles still existed.

 

I thought you were someone else,

you say. That’s OK, I often mistake myself

for someone else too, I say. We part ways,

the end feels abrupt as if there is more

to say. A conversation feels unfinished

but I don’t think it’s the one

between us right now.



We Forgive You (taraxacum)

 
Crushed under
your stained-green
sneakers, close enough
to smell perspiration
mix with gasoline
and disappointment.
 
Whirling blades
mutilate us but
this doesn’t quell
our mob scene.
 
Pull at our stems
as if those are
our throats.
Rip our bodies
to shreds
but this doesn’t kill us.
You will have to dig
deeper than that.
 
Force fed
poison
we are helpless
to swallow,
our mouths
perpetually open.
Can’t eradicate
all of us. Those left
grow resistant,
angry. Rage
against a world
that blows off
our soft heads
with a gentle breath
and makes a wish.
 
Go ahead. Smile
at the neighbors
as they drive by.
From the car window,
your wave resembles
a casual greeting,
not an SOS
from a sinking ship,
dry drowning
on the landlocked shore.
 
We know why
you are out
in the harsh summer sun.
Can almost hear
your skin burning
from here, the inevitable
melanoma festers.
 
Get this one thing right
you plead with yourself
without saying
anything. Everything else
can stay broken.
You forget
we are always
listening. Remember,
we don’t care
about your needs.
 
We didn’t intend
to be a metaphor
lurking in your lawn
in the middle
of your life
but here we are.
You don’t need us
to tell you that you
are a failure.
 
We do it anyway.

 

Still Waiting (in god’s hands)
 

Tide of shame swells

                                                      as he breathes

too hard

                                                      to finish his sentences.

He gives his mother details

                                                      of the awful thing he’s done.

He crushes his eyes

                                                      closed and waits

for warm words.

                                                       He is lost

at sea or just unable

                                                        to see the shore.

Drowning either way.

                                                        He asks her

if he will still

                                                        get into heaven.

She says

                                                         that will be up to God.

 

You’ve been listening to poetry by Joseph Kerschbaum on the Poets Weave. I’m Romayne Rubinas Dorsey.

Dandelions in some grass.

“…We didn’t intend / to be a metaphor / lurking in your lawn / in the middle / of your life / but here we are…” from “We Forgive You (taraxacum)” (MabelAmber, Pixabay)

"A little hardship, a little sickness, a little mourning, a little failure, a lost job, or broken marriage will quickly clarify for us the function of poetry. Vale of tears, oh unreal city, dark world. Meet poetry." 
- Tony Hoagland

Joseph Kerschbaum has published eight collections of poetry and two spoken word albums. His most recent publications include Mirror Box, forthcoming from Main Street Rag in 2020, and Distant Shores of a Split Second, published by Louisiana Literature Press in 2018. Joseph lives in Bloomington with his family.

On this edition of the Poets Weave, Joseph reads "I Don't Look Like Myself Today," "We Forgive You," and "Still Waiting."

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