Best of the Net Nominations 2015
[for work published between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015]
“We Are Going to Have This Conversation.” [June 3, 2015]
“La Maison Française” [March 11, 2015]
“I loaded up the fridge” [November 5, 2014]
“Texting” [April 8, 2015]
Carolyn Sheehan Gandouin
“Clear As Wings” [October 9, 2014]
“Spirit Animals” [January 28, 2015]
We Are Going To Have This Conversation.
It starts with speaking. Pay attention.
Yes, there are teeth tucked into these bones.
I am going to say We have to talk. Then we will
talk until one of us says Well what else do you have
to say. I’ll push air around in the room
of my mouth. This will make one of the following
sounds: until then, without, facetious, design.
This would be a good time to use
your hands as napkins. This would be
a good time to turn your feet into swans.
La Maison Française
My son sees no point
in learning French, but I’ve labeled
everything, le lit, le divan, le chat.
Nor is it my favorite,
so many letters unpronounced
like lights left on all day
in a vacant room,
and my accent is terrible.
Nevertheless, le miroir is speckled
with le dentifrice, la bouilliore sings
like l’oiseau in la cuisine.
I tell him he might need this—
one day he could broker la détente
or order a nice vin de France
for someone tres jolie.
And maybe it’s enough
just to spot les histoires
our own words lug along
like a portmanteau.
At the end of all this, he’ll know
some nouns, and he’ll pronounce them
like I do, poorly, with a soupçon
of defiance at so much wasted,
so much left unsaid.
I loaded up the fridge
the day before the transformer blew. The whole neighborhood lost electricity for three days. Temperatures swelled to triple digits, broke records. No wind. No conditioned air. My husband drove to nine stores before he found bags of ice. We filled the coolers but held little hope for the chicken breasts and dairy. We ate small bowls of blackberries, pear slices, handfuls of granola – drank pitchers of filtered water. Our two young sons ran laughing through the sprinklers then collapsed on the cushioned chaise lounge. We flashed lights down the hallway cave to our dens, slept naked on top of the sheets. On the second evening, well past midnight, I read by candlelight while my family slept. I finished the book that had been on my nightstand all summer, blew out the candle and in the morning found two drops of dark purple wax on the hardwood floor. The wax came off with a scratch from my thumbnail, but the color had birthmarked the light wood. I found some cleaner and began to rub out the aubergine stains. Then stopped.
I texted my ex-husband to let him know
that I was writing a series of poems
about him. “It isn’t vindictive at all,” I said,
and it wasn’t. The first one was about
the snakes and lizards that he caught
in the desert when he was a boy
growing up. “Awesome!” he texted back.
“You’re gonna make me famous!”
I sent him the one about his dog, too,
and after about ten minutes had passed,
he texted, “I’m totally crying.
It’s so good.” I confess that I felt
better, even after seeing him on the bus
the other day with his girlfriend.
There’s another one of his stories
that I’d like to write about. He’s a boy
climbing a cliff, pulling himself
to the top. He hears the rattle before
he sees the snake. But he knows
it’s there. It will always be there.
Clear as Wings
The air is as clear as wings, and my lungs expand like balloons. I steal up my stonily empty boulevard with the concrete statues as my only witness, and their eyes blinded, or wounded—
and nobody sees me creep to Saint Xavier’s. Up to the top of the church I climb. My cat-limbs are happy, elastic, ascending the verticals; from the bloodied spire I dangle, one arm waving, daring the pavement to rise up and get me. Here is the church, and I swing from the steeple; there is the city, but where are the people?
I am high on my monumental monkey bar, holy of holies I’m happy, I’m purring, I’m rubbing my head on a pillow of stone—
“But you’re still no closer to the stars,” snaps the gargoyle, “and what have you brung me for food?”
“Brought,” I say softly, “I’ve brought what I ought,” and I lay down for him an offering, half wooden, half stone—
“Petrified,” says the gargoyle, his stone lips not yet used to speech,
and I say, “Don’t be,” and smooth his stone brow with all tenderness, and try to blow the smithereens away from his blind, stone eyes.
My brother tells me he’s going
to the doctor; he gets teary too easily
now. There must be something wrong
that will show up in the blood.
I don’t tell him I think tears are primordial,
they’re mammoths and cave bears and pterodactyls,
they’re better than private jets
and all the cars on I-75, they’re our goddamn right.
He’s a straight man and a firefighter.
I don’t tell him what’s been broken over all these years
fills up the ponds behind our hearts.
It happens slowly:
a dropped glass, a lost book.
Bicycles. Old apartments with their clever
mice. Trains, still hooting plaintively.
Even a feather now
and the water overflows. It has to.
Yeah—all that rusty junk
makes each of us a back yard in the rural
everywhere of America. Brother,
we’re here now. Brother, everything
shows in our blood.