The World is Ugly and the People are Sad
“The World is Ugly and the People are Sad”
—Wallace Stevens, “Gubbinal”
and I can’t imagine a more perfect place in which to die.
But what do I know? My mouth is full of birds
with heavy wings and my teeth are made of static--
but I’ve been furnishing a perfect place in which to die:
I’d draw it for you if my fingers weren’t made of old pipes
or heavy wings the color of static. My extra row of teeth
tastes like tin. I’m one of five dogs living in a boxcar
and we like to draw for you: hands reaching for a rusted pipe
or (we can’t help ourselves) a rawhide bone. The other dogs
in here are made of tin and sometimes I wish we could leave this boxcar
and move back to Florida. But there we would just pant and cringe
or, with no one there to help us, disappear into our bones to escape the moths.
Consider this trashcan made of tongues: these blurred lines
like locusts satelliting Florida’s corpse. Don’t just pant and cringe:
preserve the birds turning red as the sky bends and
I grow inconsiderate of my tongue: my trashcan. I keep blurring the lines
of where you went and why I drink too much—then I write you letters
and ask the birds to preserve them. Red clouds lean in the sky
like two hands trying to touch each other. It seems easy enough
to call and ask “Where did you go? Are you drinking there, too? Did you get my letters?”
If not I’ll recite them for you: last night I (1) painted all the walls in your
likeness then (2) told my hands not to touch each other because it’s hard enough
having a throat in the first place and (3&4) drew you a bird while falling down stairs.
If not this, what do I have to recite for you? I had one wall to paint
and I don’t know what’s thinner: me or the veins
halving someplace in my throat. I’m made of three or four birds: I stand where I fall.
And the sky seems like the sky. Only older. When I say “older,” I mean
I keep trying to get thinner—down to my veins
that tell me what I already know: I’m trapped in the mouth of a bird
and the sky doesn’t look like the sky. It’s getting colder. When it gets cold
here I think of a Stevens’ poem, of an ugly world where the people are sad.
About the author:
Derek Graf was a finalist for the 2013 Peter Meinke Prize for Poetry. His poems have been featured in Misfit Magazine, Blast Furnace Press, and Green Blotter Literary Magazine. He received his B.A. from the University of South Florida. He currently lives in Stillwater, OK, where he is studying for his MFA degree at Oklahoma State University.