Monday, November 3, 2014

Poems from Emerging Writer Fellow Christopher Goodrich

The Writer's Center congratulates Emerging Writer Fellow Christopher Goodrich on his second book of poems. We are pleased to present four poems excerpted from No Texting at the Dinner Table (NYQ Books, 2014)

Confronting Plagiarism
Frostburg University

You expect tears, groveling,
but not the impossible truth spoken
with convincing pathos by one
Mindy Gillian, genius of English 101.
That it is they who stole from her
How Goethe—lost soul that he is—crept
into her dorm, onto her computer,
how Darwin discovered her essay
on the internet, wrote Origin of Species
without once citing her. Never mind
the needed time travel, we’d figure that out later.
What we wanted now was action.
We were both angry and near crying.
And because I knew the cost
of consequence, the inevitable disaster
if we let this thing get out of hand,
I advised her to sue hard and fast.
I’d prepare the paperwork myself.
With the help of the University’s Judicial Committee
we’d get Confucius on that witness stand,
mere bones now, to shed his tears of desperate dust
for sweet Mindy Gillian’s vast intellect.
Only a matter of time before we’d break
Virgil together. Squeeze Sophocles dry.
Stop Plato’s ridiculous rape of Gillian’s third paper,
the argumentative essay. It’s embarrassing—
to unearth Shakespeare, once legend,
only to expel him, if we have any scruples at all,
from the entire Maryland School System, forever.
Inner City English
North Philadelphia, Mastbaum High School

Students skip through Whitman’s Brooklyn,
Bradstreet’s fire—that Anglo-Saxon vision
of violence—and teacher teaches and Puritans
pray for an answer from an angry God
and below the screaming of early American literature,
the sound of pens pirouetting the paper stage.
Now I remember why I took this job.
Everyone is on task, even Idrees, who I know I’ll fail.
And though he has forgotten his pen and paper, his head is up
which, believe me, is a step forward.
Rhianna, who forgets her journal every day,
has borrowed the needed supplies, answers today’s
essential question. Yesterday’s speech has worked: Respect
and quiet and raising your hand and love
for your peers and blossoming community and I am walking
around the room in awe when almost predictably,
Diamond drops her book, turns to Lavelle,
who cannot quell his laughter and intones:
“Get your motherfucking hands off
my fucking body. I. Will. Fuck. You. Up.”
Rhianna and the rest, in choreographed time,
look from Diamond, who knows she’s right, to me,
their reluctant leader. No one’s head is down.
Everyone listens. They wait. They want to know who I really am.
Advice on Advice

The best you can give, at 2:27am,
to your in-sickness-or-in-health wife
whose nipples are chapped, who’s rocked
for an hour, your whimpering, deflated
second child, who leaks from one eye, whose
indiscernible blaspheming carries with it
the clear repetition of your Christian name,
who sharpens into a stake a sippy-cup on the bottom post
of your marriage bed, who, when you awake,
is chanting over fire, sacrificing a mountain goat,
the best advice you can give at a time like this,
is no advice at all. I found this out on Tuesday evening,
last week. Best not to begin with:
What I would do is, and you need to calm
down because. And speaking from experience,
death will certainly do you part sooner
if you do what appears the sensible, rational,
understated, respectful bowing out, and return to sleep.
This, perhaps, is worse than any advice you
could have given in the first place. I found this out
on Wednesday evening, last week. Shut up and stay awake.
Sit with your back to the headboard,
starring, focused, ahead. Study the lesson with the intensity
of a college freshman. There is paper and pencil
on the bedside table. Take Cornell notes.
Stay afterwards to ask questions. Be the first to arrive
next time. Raise your hand before speaking.
Never, not ever again, not ever ever again
ask to use the bathroom during class.
Tell her, when everyone else departs,
it was your lack of medication that caused the disruption,
and tomorrow you will bring a doctor’s note,
the prescription itself, and the introduction
to your work-in-progress dissertation, the thesis of which
has something to do with the sexual cannibalism
of certain insects: A male’s survival rate post copulation.
The Possibility of Poop

During delivery, I mean.
There was a chance
I would see my wife poop.
We had even discussed it
beforehand, how scared
she was that with the head
of the child would come
the head of something else—
as if the world could not
bestow beauty alone.
Some balance underscored
every glory. But the baby
was, how to say this, not
beautiful either, she hadn’t
yet earned it. Far too gray
and red in funny places,
more orifices than is
possible spitting pus
and a cone head. I mean
this girl had a real cone
head. And we loved that
ugly thing, we knew
it would become human
in minutes before our eyes.
Soon as she looked at us,
we knew her. And, Darling,
not an inch of poop.
Though even if there was
I wouldn’t say because
I love you and I’d like you
to continue to love me
and poop sometimes
gets in the way of love
if you let it, if you admit to it,
if you admit to it every time.

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