When I Whistle This Tune
After I’d sketched in some
Detail the man I never wanted to become,
I easily became him, since we’d grown
Too close by then for me to summon him
From almost nothing on a whim
And then leave him alone.
I felt as though I’d found
Some sidewalk chalk and drawn an outline on the ground,
Then had lain down inside it, half surprised
How well I fit right off and half dismayed
To find the emptiness I’d made
So aptly shaped and sized.
It seemed like sympathetic
Magic: I spoke his name, I pondered his pathetic
Aspects, and there he was, not like a guest
With one small suitcase and an envelope
Of grateful cash, fresh cantaloupe
Or daisies or the best
White wine you’ve ever tasted—
No, more like the disheveled old friend (drooling, wasted)
You find one morning bogging down your couch:
His pickup truck squats cockeyed on the lawn,
His whippet—with the pure élan
A dog too fast to catch
Perfects—has shit your carpet
Three times already (shit your landlord’s sure to carp at),
And, worst of all, your entryway is oozing
White trash bags leaking clothes and pans and sawdust.
Hair: sad. Shoes: sadder. Ass crack: saddest.
You wonder what he’s using.
He stirs, rubs gray unshaven
Jowls, tongues his fuzzy teeth, and chirps, At last! Safe haven!
I knew you’d understand. Sidestepping turds,
He tries a hug; you wince. Like a buffoon,
He smirks and whistles a dirty tune.
You? You know all the words.
Stephen Kampa has recent poems published or forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, Raritan, Rattle, Yale Review, and others. His first book, Cracks in the Invisible, won the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize and a gold medal in poetry from the Florida Book Awards. His second book, Bachelor Pad, is forthcoming from the Waywiser Press.
Additional work from Stephen Kampa appears in the Fall & Winter 2013-2014 issue of Poetry Northwest.
photo credit: Shirin Winiger via photopin cc