Category: Missed Poems

Poems You Might Have Missed: Who Needs Us? by Dorianne Laux

Image Credit: Odins Raven
Image Credit: Odins Raven

A poem doesn’t need to make you feel good, but it does need to make you feel something. Dorianne Laux’s “Who Needs Us?” isn’t exactly a sunbeam of positivity, but rather an indicting read whose sting is dampened by the poem’s sonic qualities. The alliteration, assonance, and internal rhymes of the poem lure you in so well it’s easy to miss the content and the ideas behind it. The title is a question worded in such a way that the answer–no one–is implied. However important or necessary we think we are with our “magnified magnificence,” we’re really just infinitesimal slithers in the sublimely infinite and ever-expanding world. “Do I dare disturb the universe?” asks Eliot’s Prufrock. As if the universe would even notice the question.

Who Needs Us?

The quiet, the bitter, the bereaved,
the going forth of us, the coming home,
the drag and pull of us, the tome and teem
and tensile greed of us, the opening
and closing of us, our eyes, in sleep,
our crematorium dreams?

The brush of us one against another,
the crumple on the couch of us,
the spring in our step, the sequestered dance
in front of the cracked mirrors of us,
our savage suffering, our wobbly ladders
of despair, the drenched seaweed-green
of our tipped wineglass hearts, our wheels
and guitars, white spider bites blooming
on our many-colored skins, the din
of our nerves, our pearl onion toes
and orangey fingers, our effigies
and empty bellies, our plazas
of ache and despair, our dusky faces
round as dinner plates, our bald pates,
our doubt, our clout, our bold mistakes?

Who needs the footprints of us,
the glimpse of us in a corridor of stars,
who sees the globes of our breath
before us in winter, the angels
we make in the stiff snow,
the hack and ice of us, the glide
and gleam and busted puzzle of us,
the myth and math of us,
the blue bruise and excuse of us,
who will know the magnified
magnificence of us, could there be
too many of us, the clutch and strum
and feral singing of us, the hush of us,
who will hear the whisker of silence
we will leave in our wake?

– from The Book of Men by Dorianne Laux, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.

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Poems You Might Have Missed: Emphasis on Mister or Peanut, Robo or Boy by Matthea Harvey

If you’ve never read Matthea Harvey‘s work, you’re missing one of the most insightful and fascinating imaginations in contemporary poetry. Reading Harvey’s work reminds me of the words of the French poet Rimbaud: “Woman will discover the unknown! Will her world of ideas differ from ours? She will discover strange things, unfathomable, repulsive, delightful; we will accept and understand them.” While Harvey has published several books, Rimbaud’s words most aptly describe Modern Life, .

Image Credit: poetryfoundation.org
Image Credit: Doug McNamara, poetryfoundation.org

Modern Life, like much of her other work, includes a hybridity motif, splitting and splicing together objects, animals, and language. It includes a series of poems including the bionic Robo-Boy, perhaps my favorite portion of this serious yet decidedly playful work. This series of poems are a good example of Harvey’s ability to fuse a sense of humanity into the premise of a futuristic creature that in fact doesn’t feel that futuristic, progress being progress. And while the vast majority of readers and real-lifers will undoubtedly frown upon the humanness of a bionic creature, Robo-Boy is not so unlike us in the series’ final poem, in which “he’ll sit on a fence and look at the clouds, through exhilaration, hysteria, delight, despair.”

Emphasis on Mister or Peanut, Robo or Boy 

In the chapters on Special Children, the parenting books stress
the need for role models. Hence the silver-framed portraits of Mr.
Peanut, the Michelin Man and Mrs. Butterworth in silver frames
on Robo-Boy’s bureau. Robo-Boy has never quite known what
to do with them. For a while he thought they might be estranged
relatives, especially since his parents never mentioned them. Mr.
Peanut, debonair as Fred Astaire, looks like the kind of uncle who
might tell you over steak and a cigar that with a pair of gloves and
a monocle slotted over your eyesocket, you can have your pick of
the ladies. Mrs. Butterworth figured more in Robo-Boy’s brief religious
phase–there’s something holy in her maple syrup glow, and
in her shape, something of the Buddha. The Michelin Man is the
one who worries him. With his perpetual thumbs-up and cheerful
expression he looks like he might be hoping to hitchhike his way the
hell out of here–

– from Modern Life by Matthea Harvey, published by Graywolf Press, 2007.

Harvey’s newest collection If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? has already garnered numerous positive reviews and will be released 19 August 2014.