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Forget the year, the parties where you drank too much, said what you thought without thinking, danced so hard you dislocated your hip, fainted in the kitchen, while Gumbo, your hosts’ Jack Russell terrier, looked you straight in the eye, bloomed into a boddhisattva, lectured you on the Six Perfections while drunk people with melting faces gathered around your shimmering corpse. Then there was February when you should have been decapitated for stupidity. Forget those days and the ones when you faked a smile so stale it crumbled like a cookie down the side of your face. Forget the crumbs and the mask you wore and the tangle of Scotch tape you used to keep it in place, but then you’d have to forget spring with its clouds of jasmine, wild indigo, and the amaryllis with their pink and red faces, your garden with its twelve tomato plants, squash, zucchini, nine kinds of peppers, okra, and that disappointing row of corn. Forget the corn, its stunted ears and brown oozing tips. Forgive the worms that sucked their flesh like zombies and forgive the bee that stung your arm, then stung your face, too. While we’re at it, let’s forget 1974. You should have died that year, or maybe you did. Resurrection’s a trick you learned early. And 2003. You could have called in sick those twelve months—sick and silly, illiterate and numb, and summer, remember the day at the beach when the sun began to explain Heidegger to you while thunderclouds rumbled up from the horizon like Nazi submarines? The fried oysters you ate later at Angelo’s were a consolation and the margaritas with salt and ice. Remember how you begged the sullen teenaged waitress to bring you a double, and double that, pleasepleaseplease. And forget all the crime shows you watched, the DNA samples, hair picked up with tweezers and put in plastic bags, the grifters, conmen, and the husbands who murdered their wives for money or just plain fun. Forget them and the third grade and your second boyfriend, who loved Blonde on Blonde as much as you did but wanted something you wouldn’t be able to give anyone for years. Forget movies, too, the Hollywood trash in which nothing happened though they were loud and fast, and when they were over time had passed, which was a blessing in itself. O blessed is Wong Kar Wai and his cities of blue and rain. Blessed is David Lynch, his Polish prostitutes juking to “Loco-Motion” in a kitschy fifties bungalow. Blessed is Leonard Cohen, his “Hallelujah” played a thousand times as you drove through Houston, its vacant lots exploding with wild flowers and capsized shopping carts. So forget the pizzas you ate, the ones you made from scratch and the Dominoes ordered in darkest December, the plonk you washed it down with and your Christmas tree with the angel you found in Naples and the handmade Santas your sons brought home from school, the ones with curling eyelashes and vampire fangs. Forget their heartbreaks and your sleepless nights like gift certificates from the Twilight Zone, because January’s here, and the stars are singing a song you heard on a street corner once, so wild the pavement rippled, and it called you like the night calls you with his monsters and his marble arms.
From On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author and publisher.
Copyright 2014 Barbara Hamby
Barbara Hamby was born in New Orleans and raised in Honolulu. She is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Holoholo (Pitt, 2021). She has also edited an anthology of poems, Seriously Funny (Georgia, 2009), with her husband David Kirby. She teaches at Florida State University where she is Distinguished University Scholar.