A city getting closer.
A city rising from a jet-way marshland
like a heaven of pure hope.
over water and there’s a dock,
a breakwater, and, yes, people
walking here and there—no, striding—
on their way to Very Important
Meetings (it’s an office park I think,
at the bottom of Manhattan—
or is this Chicago?)
or perhaps just people
pretending to be important.
a room, floor-to-ceiling windows
clean as my wife’s vegetables (which is
to say, spotless) and a woman (it’s
a woman, right?)—yes, a She,
black pencil skirt, hair mercilessly bunned,
clips through brown office doors,
eyes darting, stands by the vegetable-clean
She’s nervous, no?
not to come to certain conclusions,
forgive us. We think:
girl scared tough
in a man’s world.
We think: is she gonna
make it on her own?
Cut to: poor kids
splashing in hydrant water.
beautiful empty high-rise kitchen.
Cut to: cat.
This business with junk food begins.
Her briefcase clicks shut—is that
a Twinkie? Yes, Hostess brand placement.
If she were less adorable she wouldn’t
have caught the corner of her mouth
with that pustule of celestial cream
which now—cruel close-up!—balances
on the metal blade of her smile.
He (yes, He’s been here this whole time)
sits back a little in his brown oxfords,
smiles, softens his eyes.
What? Oh, this?
She fingers her face as if blind
to her own body’s existence, finds
she’s really there—touches the pus
and, in a gesture that reveals
all we need to know about
her moral Minnesota upbringing,
whisks the plot-point
to her tongue.
the executive committee. She warms up
the PowerPoint projector. He is
Best Friend is a saucy one—
kind of cute, drinks cheap scotch—
but something’s not quite right.
She’s gangly and only appears
in yoga studios or cafés with small cookies.
Best Friend’s a divorce attorney
or pet shop owner. Her man wears
sweats or plaid. Like most everyone,
she can Do Better. But she loves
her junior executive Bestie
more than any man could love
our junior executive heroine. This is
a sonnet. What does that tell you
that you didn’t already know?
Uh-oh. Trouble in paradise.
From up here, this bedroom’s
a mess: knotted comforter,
crumpled sheets. Oh my god
it’s her mother. Her mother’s
here, staying on in the rare spare
room because, I believe, she has left
her Minnesota husband of thirty years
and finally decided to play
the role of ironic counterpoint.
Brown Oxfords is angry but trying
to deal. I saw him smoking
outside his office, alone. This is
When he comes home
let’s hope mother isn’t here.
Oh, but she will be!
I love this part—
how family fucks family, again and again—
and, in the place of love and confusion,
the everlasting glow of the studios’
projected gross earnings—again and again
and again and again and again
My wife is cleaning vegetables
in New York City. In our
apartment. We live in Brooklyn
with cat, dog, and daughter. Tina
was here earlier, but she left
I go to help my wife
by slicing onions and cooking them
in olive oil with fleur de sel, black pepper.
We are drinking Tannat and talking
about the movie we just watched.
We like to watch movies and eat dinner
at the same time, but tonight
we’re doing one and then
First the onions go in
and then I rope in some oil and let it all
cook down to a glassy essence
before adding the tomatoes.
It’s quiet now,
here in the kitchen, on the third floor
of a day we’ve carefully arranged
to give it the look of whatever happens
happens—as if we’ve never been so
beautifully approved. We know now
that love is rhythm, love is pace. So
we make it easy, keep it nice.
are best in cans, I once read. They save
the best, most beautiful, ripest tomatoes
for the whole tomatoes cans. Diced
or crushed or pureed—
not as good.
That is to say
they crush the uglies. So I always buy
whole tomatoes and crush them
myself. I do this for my wife and,
let’s face it, because it’s fun.
NEWS ALERT: Raphael Allison will be reading from his work at the TLR / Berl’s Poetry Shop Reading along with Mark Bibbins, Mark Svenvold, and Julia Guez. M.C. Craig Morgan Teicher.
Friday May 23, 2014
Berl’s Poetry Shop
126A Front Street
Dumbo / Brooklyn
Raphael Allison’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Painted Bride Quarterly, and the Harvard Review.
“Rom Com” was originally published in Scenester (TLR Early Summer 2013)