Monday Jul 22

HodgenJohn John Hodgen is the Writer-in-Residence at Assumption College in Worcester, MA. Hodgen won the AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry for Grace (U of Pittsburgh P, 2005). His fourth book of poetry Heaven & Earth Holding Company is out from the U of Pittsburgh P, and his first book In My Father's House, has been reprinted from Lynx House/U of Washington P. Hodgen’s fifth book, The Lord of Everywhere, is just out, also from Lynx House/U of Washington P. His website can be found here.


Even the hotel maid her lover is pushing himself into will never
be the same as she was changing sheets just this morning. She’ll be forever
exhausted by the end of her shift, like the toilet with the broken tank cover
in 327 that never stops flushing, the next bed unmade, the duvet and bedcovers
on the floor like hell to pay, like a Christo installation. As he sighs above her,
says her name over and over, she looks to her left, is streaming the two lovers
on Desperate Housewives doing the same thing they are doing, recalculating,
like giant parakeets, or sculpture intertwined, like the Laocoön, coupling.
Love’s always walking on, being made and remade until it starts dying.
Love puts in its two cents and then it stops trying. Love leaves when it’s time.
Beauty, not love, draws our interest. Beauty in the business of being sublime,
finding someone’s wallet fat with fifties on the street, staking its claim.
Beauty’s a reserve, a transaction, an exchange. Beauty’s a monopoly, a game,
not hotels, only banks, saving, giving thanks. Beauty, not love, that’s to blame.


Away, the single word she’s sent me ever since she went away,
asking if I’m traveling, perhaps, or maybe if I’ve found a way
to move on, like a wayward wind, a ghibli, or a stowaway,
down in the hold, down in the hole, like Bubbles on The Wire,
all strung out, his shopping cart wheel going every whichaway.
Or like a runaway, Billy the Kid, gun for hire in the Lincoln County Wars,
always having to clear out, vamoose, making his getaway from town
to town, one holed up hideaway after another, some Garrett or gunsel
always planning a way to shoot him down, all because he drew so fast,
far and away the fastest gun around. Or shipwrecked Crusoe, castaway,
iconoclast, finding a single footprint in the sand, thanking God that it’s Friday,
another week put away. Or a wayfarer, immigrant, transplant, playing keepaway,
like fifteen nightmare drowning sailors singing Anchors Aweigh, or the skinny kid
on benzedrine, so blown away at Woodstock, so long ago, so far away, drumming
what was left of his life away on a rusty overturned barrel until the flesh on his hands
was dripping with blood, peeling away, as if his whole country had been taken away,
as if he were Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce, per se, pounding all night long singing
Rockaway, Rockaway. I’m still right here. I haven’t gone away.

Bereavement Rate

I ask the airline representative what I need to do to fly bereavement rate.
She looks up immediately, says she’s sorry for my loss, shows a delicate
combination of poise and reserve that might, at the very least, indicate
that she’s gone through this before, which I tell her I really appreciate.
She says it’s a simple process, a form to fill out so they can authenticate
the name of the deceased, essentially the time, the place, the date.

I want immediately to ingratiate myself, but tell her I have to complicate
this a bit, that I truly hate what I’m about to say, want to compensate
her somehow for what she is doing, give her a discount commensurate
with what she has to go through each and every day, to endlessly state
the policies, the corporate protocol for what’s ostensibly the going rate
of living and dying. She looks away. I realize I’ve begun to perseverate.

I hesitate, then out myself, say what I have to say, that what I need
is a permanent bereavement rate,
that I’m carrying too many deaths with me, like Atlas cursed, the weight
on my back like a dead man’s carry, that I am death’s corpsman, medic,
bosun’s mate,
that I am not here to berate, nor cheat, nor vitiate,
that each day I am consigned to lift the bodies of those who’ve been killed,
death’s contraband, its freight,

but I can’t carry them all anymore. I’ve been trying to teach them to levitate,
transubstantiate, congregate
in some cumulous cloud, some school in the sky where they can integrate,
graduate, the kids killed in class, the deaths by cop, the victims of state
sponsored terror, the drive-bys, suicides, asylum seekers made to wait,
the dead refugee boy washed up on the beach, desolate, inchoate,
his body like a tiny shipping crate, a coffin fallen off Death’s transport ship from Kuwait.
Though he is filled with the weeping of the Mediterranean, I can lift his awful weight,

but these children here now, on the border, the ones being forced to separate,
the ones dead inside, in the waiting room of the empty heart, like ancient mariners, inviolate,
the body of the other hanging around their necks like an albatross, a counterweight,
each breath like a rhyme, riven, like an unlatched, rusted prison gate,
swinging between the bereaved, the bereaved, and the hate, the hate.