Sometimes I finish a poem and then spend weeks or months trying to find the right title, but “My GPS Speaks” was a case of finding the title first and then trying to write the poem that went with it. Once I had “puppy love” and “radar love” I had a sense of how the poem would move, logically speaking—that it would proceed by association and zip from one phrase or concept or image to another, something like a stone skipping across the surface of a lake, but not in a straight line. No straight lines seemed to be the rule.
The crucial thing seemed to be to find pairs of phrases that had some kind of electricity between them. I had the ‘siege engines’/’search engines’ pair in my notebook from months before, and once the pairing of ‘tornado shelter’ and ‘tax shelter’ presented itself to me I knew I was onto something. The finished piece feels to me like a summary of cosmic wisdom presented by a lecturer who is slowly, or maybe not so slowly, losing his mind. I wouldn’t want to meet the speaker of this poem, but I’d love to be able to observe him for a while, from a safe distance. (Troy Jollimore)
My GPS Speaks
It’s a long way from puppy love to radar
love, a long way from what’s sauce for the goose
to Gander, Newfoundland. It’s a long way
from mushrooms to my mudroom, from Oliver North
to North Beach to Sylvia Beach to Sylvia
Plath. You can’t get from bee to sea
unless you start at the Zuider Zee.
Assuming what you are trying to prove
will get you everywhere. It’s a long way
from Zagat’s to zeugma, from Margot’s to magma,
from a one night fuck to a kiss from grandma,
whose cinders now bide their time in that urn
on your nightstand, because after Scrabble, you burn.
Her fifty-point bonuses and triple word scores
will plague you no more. It’s a long, long way
from Tipperary to Tipper Gore
to Vidal to Siegfried Sassoon. It’s the moon
in your crock pot, it’s the slow fire in your brain,
it’s the distance between the dusky Plains
of Abraham and the Lincoln log cabin
where young George W. hacked down that cherry
tree and whittled himself some new teeth.
It’s a seven course wedding. It’s famine relief.
It’s your siege engines versus my search engines,
your tornado shelter versus my tax shelter,
your sleeper cell versus my sleeping pills
and celery sticks. It’s all the young pricks
pulling their fast ones, kicking their tricks.
It’s a long way, but not nearly long enough,
from ménage a trios to triage chez moi.
It’s a story for the ages, a tale for our times,
a key to the cages, a bust for our rhymes,
and I can see by the rakish swerve of your smile
that you’re just the fedora to sell it.
Troy Jollimore is the author of two collections of poetry, At Lake Scugog (Princeton University Press, 2011) and Tom Thomson in Purgatory (MARGIE/Intuit House), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry in 2006. His philosophical books include Love’s Vision and On Loyalty. He was the Stanley P. Young Poetry Fellow at the 2012 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and is currently Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Chico.
Additional work from Troy Jollimore appears in the Fall & Winter 2012-2013 issue of Poetry Northwest (v7.n2).