Thursday, April 1, 2021

Selected Works, Paula Cisewski

Having a Diet Cherry Coke with You
                        --after Frank O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You” and inspired by Denise Duhamel’s title “Having a Diet Coke with You.”                                                                                 

is even more fun than sipping a kir
in the twinkling lights of a bistro

while awaiting our grilled quail
in pomegranate molasses
atop beluga lentils—which we never
do—some thousands of miles away

from home, or ringing in the new 
year—which we did once—on a dance floor

under a constellation of disco lights.
Partly because diet soda is super gross

and we both know it’s super gross but 
I secretly love it sometimes and you 

don’t care. You would share one with me 
without complaint, in a movie theater

or on the road, and all the while mostly 
I would be hoping my next choice would be 

better. Partly because things get bigger fast.
Outside our galaxy, husks of broken galaxies

orbit us, forever steamrolled by our carousel 
of stars. Partly because at its core, the Milky Way 

is powered by its own black hole
which starves for everything, even light. 

Partly because here on Earth—our astral morsel 
amid a universe of hungers—there exists your art

plus more art plus your great indifference 
toward a splotch of paint on your shirt.

To me, writing a love poem will always 
feel like borrowing some already borrowed 

thing. I don’t care because when I’m next 
to you—where I am lucky often to be—

the whirling assemblages of our bodies seem 
like they could indeed once have fueled the stars. 

Sympathy for

this devilish agony: a worn leash
whenever I recall the revelatory 
solitude confettied by falling leaves
in El Parque del Buen Retiro
on the afternoon in Madrid
when I came across the Statue 
of the Fallen Angel, upon 
a fountain pedestal, 

his tortured face gazing 
up to the ideal home, away 
from which he eternally 
plummets. I remember aloneness,

but was not alone, having traveled
to the city with a man who bedeviled
me for years.  I can feel how much
you want me to say I love you and that’s why 

I won’t he said, perhaps not right 
there before Lucifer, but elsewhere 
                                       and often.
                                        Q: Did I love the bedeviler? 

                                        A: Yes, if this is this love: allowing the vortex 
                                             to pull me toward his collapsed heart.
                                             I was Narcissus, enthralled. My face 
                                             looked so weird.        I never did learn 

                                                how not to want love, only how
not to want his. This morning I woke 
from some backwater dream and blinked 
away the bright decade and counting since 

that Spanish fountain scene. What 
a strange souvenir to keep. I never 
believed I would write any love poems, 
but I wrote this one, which has 

revealed itself to be a belated 
love poem to me. A container 
for a former grief, finally,
completely released. 


Ship of Fools
                --after the Hieronymus Bosch painting

I think trees never die, and so never will we.
Cool cruise—are we moving? Who knows. Let’s play
a game by dangling a pancake from a string.
We can drink and sing and chomp at the thing. 

Cool cruise—are we safe? Let’s play
a game, which is a kind of prayer.
We drink and sing and chomp at the thing. 
Did trees grow inside this boat or was the boat

built around trees, which are a kind of prayer?
Who knows. Those cherries look scrumptious.
Did trees grow inside the boat or was the boat
built like a wish no one remembers making?
Who knows. Those cherries were scrumptious
and aren’t we content sailing away
like a wish no one remembers making?
Surely something or other keeps us afloat

and aren’t we content sailing away?
The probably dying trees make pretty masts where wind rustles. 
Surely someone or other keeps us on course. 
The fool on the bough sees clearly the bottom of his cup.

The probably dying leaves make thousands of terrible sails.
A couple fights permanently like discord is their feast
while the fool sees me clearly in the bottom of his cup,
not humans drowning in the water, not starved birds in the trees.

A couple fights permanently like discord is their feast
which is a kind of a game, like thoughts and prayers, dangling on a string.
humans drowning in the water, starved birds in the trees.
I think trees never die, and so never will we.

Spoonbridge & Cherry by Claes Oldenburg

Water shoots out 
the cherry stem and showers 

the surrounding pool. a happy 
sculpture in a postcard of a city 

where it seems most residents 
know someone who knows 

someone who knows the couple 
caught doing it after-hours, in 

the bevel of that big spoon.

museum security. 

And then? I never heard
the end. The two 

were either arrested 
or they fled, irreproachable,

all afterglow. Must I know? 
Aren’t private moments

infinitely deposited 
into the safe of any single night?

One kind of honesty is choosing
whichever version feels most true 

and in so doing reveal a truth about 
the retellers, about me and you.

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