Samuel Wharton


what I need more than anything

else right now       is to brush my teeth

(them damn toofies as my father used to say)

get out this aching taste       once I came

around to a different way of seeing things

seeing past porousness       past surface

past face       I could spend a month playing

in a house of mirrors and never once confront

myself       but that’s how they’re designed

isn’t it?       after all this reflection I feel

I’m peeling       not in strips       but one whole

skinny layer at a time       how pink

is the underneath—a gauge of the burning

its extent       also note this tongue       too swollen

to joke       but seriously       who can claim language

like I lay       claimed?       what I need now

is a good scrubbing       all my histories

scoured from me       like dirt from the knees

just to regain that healthy youthful glow

Happy Birthday Poem
       for myself on my 29th

our leftovers are manifold       my freezer is chock full
soups chilis & stews       plenitude emboldens us

see that coffee cup that unclean scrap       scars left
on the world as we move through it       see our space

geometried around us       a red picnic table
yawning awnings to shade you from the day       sky

parsed into sectors like a long broad sentence
that wind is practically verbal       trees shake loose

their plastic bags       blue: the color of nouns
our leftovers surround us with comfort       simple

pleasures abound: that first sip of coffee       smell
of lovers’ hair       we are presidioed with pleasure

a man folds his paper       leaves it on the train
vines rush to vein the buildings above you       you

are rocking back and forth: motion for motion’s sake
the news is another something awful       “Global

Sludge Ends in Tragedy for Ivory Coast”       (New
York Times
, 2 October 2006)       it’s almost your

birthday       left over right you play that child’s game
with your lover       whoever reaches the top

of the stick first doesn’t have to do dishes
for a week       the year is turning to its blind side

winter       see those condos halfway built
we discipline our litterers       we pick up after

our dogs       or we pay a fine       my skin will dry out
again       my freezer is chock full       you are frozen

in someone’s heart       you are ready to hibernate
not even the bitterest cold will clean out the city

that is part of the beauty of northern cities
I haven’t lived in the south for a while but I left

something of myself down there       our remainders
are accumulating       we discipline our litterers but not

the producers of our litter       our bounties fortify us
it’s nearly your birthday & you are wasting resources

Samuel Wharton has poems appearing or forthcoming in elimae , foam:e, Memorious, Outside Voices' 2008 anthology, & Redivider. His music criticism can be found at www.urbanpollution.com. He is the editor of Sawbuck.

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