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Archive for August 12th, 2012

I just finished reading Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith . . . while on hold to Time-Warner Cable.  Seriously.  I called the help line, heard the perky attendant mention, “We are currently experiencing thirty minute hold times,” and went back upstairs for my book.  Read the last 35 pages in 30 minutes and was just about to start the appended excerpt of G-Smith’s latest book when a human being answered.  Is there some cosmic irony in the fact that someone who turns his TV on less than an hour a week (except during the Olympics) spends about that same amount of time reading a book while waiting to have the TV fixed?

Reading while on hold – what a concept.  The problem is the inane music they play.  First was a scratchy version of Beethoven’s Für Elise, then what sounded like an instumental version of (I swear I’m not making this up) 70’s disco, followed by smooth sax jazz so generic that static would have been preferable.  And then the sequence repeated.  I hope it didn’t do some subliminal damage to my auditory cortex while I read how John Wilkes Booth (spoiler alert!!) became a vampire.

What would you think about this alternative – listening to poetry while on hold?  Something catchy and non-generic that would make you smile, make you cry (nothing, however, that would make you cuss the cable company, or the service desk, or that trembling help guy in the corporate basement in Hamtramck, MI). Someone reading with feeling and verve and a little bit sexy.  Some astounding turn of phrase or unexpected conclusion that compels you to say, when the human interrupts, “WAIT!  Put me back on hold, please.”

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Next time your internet connection has spiraled into a black hole in the Greater Magellenic Cloud, or your dishwasher is autodialing a porn site in Belarus, or you’re trying to track down your personal banker who has absconded to her luxury condo on the coast of Belize, wouldn’t you rather listen to Dorianne Laux read this while you await succor?

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Singing Back the World

I don’t remember how it began.
The singing.  Judy at the wheel
in the middle of Sentimental Journey.
The side of her face glowing.
Her full lips moving.  Beyond her shoulder
the little houses sliding by.
And Geri.  Her frizzy hair tumbling
in the wind wing’s breeze, fumbling
with the words.  All of us singing
as loud as we can. Off key.
Not even a semblance of harmony.
Driving home in a blue Comet singing
I’ll Be Seeing You and Love Is a Rose.
The love songs of war.  The war songs
of love.  Mixing up verses, eras, words.
Songs from stupid musicals.
Coming in strong on the easy refrains.
Straining our middle aged voices
trying to reach impossible notes,
reconstruct forgotten phrases.
Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.
Shamelessly la la la-ing
whole sections.  Forgetting
the rent, the kids, the men,
the other woman.  The sad goodbye.
The whole of childhood.  Forgetting
the lost dog.  Polio.  The grey planes
pregnant with bombs.  Fields
of white headstones.  All of it gone
as we struggle to remember
the words.  One of us picking up
where the others leave off.  Intent
on the song.  Forgetting our bodies,
their pitiful limbs, their heaviness.
Nothing but three throats
beating back the world – Laurie’s
radiation treatments.  The scars
on Christina’s arms.  Kim’s brother.
Molly’s grandfather.  Jane’s sister.
Singing to the telephone poles
skimming by.  Stoplights
blooming green.  The road,
a glassy black river edged
with brilliant gilded weeds.  The car
as immense boat cutting the air
into blue angelic plumes.  Singing
Blue Moon and Paper Moon
and Mack the Knife, and Nobody Knows
the Trouble I’ve Seen.

by Dorianne Lux

collected in Poetry 180, edited by Billy Collins, © 2003 Random House

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