Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#234: Three Poems by Scott Dalgarno

~These poems were selected by assistant editor Clara Jane Hallar.



~This poem previously appeared in The Yale Review (2007).


JESUS TURNS UP IN VAN NUYS, BUT HIS NUMBER IS STILL UNLISTED

I was raptured, temporarily, then recalled
due to a clerical error. There was the office
generated apology, of course, with a cc to God.

Des Moines looks so different to me now. Not nearly
so plural. Apparently I wasn’t missed, but then,
I’ve always been the penguin in the red muffler.

Sure, I want you to notice me, but I still want you
to have to look. Like the rest of the half-wit
world, I beat my gong with a spent cucumber.

We’re all of us faking it, right? Only the young
don’t know that . . . . which makes them young.
Everything shifts over time. Now they’re saying

filthy is the new dirty. Don’t get me wrong,
I welcome the chance to come clean about my hiccup
with Jesus, but my people have always adored their

secrets, hording the unstutterable, holding their cards
under the table. My grandmother was a Shaker
all her life. She had teeth made from old mah

jongg tiles. Even her husband didn’t know. What
must Jesus think of the news that all these years
he’s been married; his wife, a rehabilitated Bible

whore? Hell, we don’t even know what he looked like.
Maybe dark short, with splayed feet and an eye that
wanders. Christus Domesticus. See them commuting. 

“Pick a lane,” he says, “Any lane, I don’t care”
(Mary likes to take her half out of the middle). Afraid
of being left behind, she’s forever offering

to drive, while Jesus leans into the tragic like some reckless
geek magician. Profiled in PEOPLE, they’re
like rock stars on holiday; see them walk, A-framed,

purling their way down Sepulveda, that Picasso body
of hers moving like a crab. He could fix that,
but likes her crooked, pink, & halting.

*****



~This poem previously appeared in The Antioch Review (2006).

Mea Culpa Mea 

Here it is, only September first
and already it’s as cold as yesterday’s
Gazpacho, and I’m wondering

was it something I said? The market
took a dive this morning. There was
no sign of it coming, so, being

conscientious, I decided to have
my white count checked. Okay, I know
I worry, but take the latest “war “− there’s no

end in sight, and I have reason to believe 
(God will not be mocked!) it has everything 
to do with that deduction I took this year

for my eyelift. Things in this world go south
so regularly, and inevitably it comes round
to being (I know) my fault. Sure, I could

have been a better husband, a way-better  
father. My own father said I had the kind
of brain to cure cancer, and here I sit,

considering how to assign blame for
all there is that disappoints. My mother
wrote to ask if I planned to call her

sometime, you know, before she died,
and it made me sad again for John Keats
and his poor Fanny and all the children

neither born to them nor neglected by his
obsession with art. Better dead at
twenty-six, I suppose, than leave a serpentine

trail of wreckage like Shelley, or Byron,
but I can’t stop thinking about Sylvia
who tried calling me that cold February

morning when I was just too lazy to roll out
of bed and pick up. I know, I know, it’s true –
I should be shot. I’d do it myself, except      
           
who blames the victim anymore? 

*****

 

~This poem previously appeared in The Yale Review (2009).



TMI

I grew up with a scar on my cheek,
a perfect arrow aimed at my left eye. 
My right is glass, so the arrow pointed
to the good one, as if to say, “Look here,

this window’s open.” Playing for change
on the street, I welcomed a touch
of the grotesque. Kids and dogs would stop
and stare, which made other people gape.

One of them had a neck like bamboo
with Japanese characters along her vertebrae. 
She said my scar looked like Okinawa, in relief.
 
I’d take her fingers in mine and we’d close
our eyes and go there. The beaches were
wonderful, and, like sex, it was a cheap vacation.

When I stopped looking like a freak to her
she claimed she wanted a more practical life,
so I sold the Gibson and registered for night

classes. The week I spoke of marriage she moved in
with a one-legged biker we’d met at Burning Man.
I rebounded big, letting a surgeon make a playground

of my cheek, sanding it, like I was a sailboat
or a sake pot. Now I show up regularly in the pages
of New Beauty, but, yes, I confess I miss being huge
with first graders and your stray Lab mix.

*****



THE STORY BEHIND THE POEMS:

"Jesus Turns Up In Van Nuys . . . " was inspired by research scholars have done in "the historical Jesus."  That is to say, Jesus, the Palestinian peasant who lived in the region of the Galilee from 4 B.C.E. to 30 A.D. (a scholarly estimation), not the Jesus of Christian tradition.  I took the portrait of him I picked up from those academic studies and mused about what his life would be like if he were transported to Southern California today.  I had as much fun with it as possible, including in it the idea, made popular at the time in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalen. 

“Mea Culpa Mea” is a total romp.  I set myself the task of writing a first person narrative poem from the point of view of an over-the-top narcissist. The narcissist I voice here happens to have a knowledge of poetic history. 

“TMI” came about after reading an account in SUN Magazine of a woman's emotional attachment to a facial scar her father forced her to have removed when she was young.  The story moved me quite a lot and the poem came out of that. 

*****
ABOUT SCOTT DALGARNO


Scott Dalgarno has also published poems in APR, America Magazine, The Merton Seasonal, and the Bellevue Literary Review.  He currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

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