From A BELL by Daniel Poppick
Admire the guillotine for its restraint.
April and I are summoned to our creative director’s office for a mysterious meeting. We approach the glass partition of her north-facing office wall and see she is on the phone. She waves us inside. “Thank you,” she chimes, and hangs up. Her voice drops. “It’s off,” she says.
“What’s off?” I say.
“Your firing. He told me to forget about it. He’s going to fire everybody all at once in a couple of months.”
“Thank you. That means a lot to me,” April says.
Saying new expletives into a secondhand mirror.
Instead of a poem you have a voice
Instead of a voice you have a tongue
Instead of a tongue you have the state
Instead of the state you have arms
Instead of arms you have limbs
Instead of limbs you have leaves
Instead of leaves you have paper
Instead of paper you have books
Instead of books you have pleasure
Instead of pleasure you have parts
Instead of parts you have theater
Instead of theater you have words
Instead of words you have money
Instead of money you have song
It dawned on me that the day had consisted of a series of multiple choice questions. But when, I wondered in a little melody under my breath, had I made such a choice—of the “multiple” persuasion—much less encountered any obstacle at all?
“What’s with all the new piano ballads this last decade?” I write in an email to Eric from work. “Piano in Lorde songs makes love feel formal,” I continue, “but it's a one-way love affair. Her crescendos are too convincing, and there’s nothing on the other side but us, reduced to a puddle. Taylor, on the other hand, leaves me feeling like feelings themselves have all been privatized. It's too depressing. 1989 sounds better now than it did when it came out.”
So it’s clear that I’m losing my mind.
Parable of Us
“My name is We,” they said.
“Hello, We,” he replied, tensing his grip on the light-up plastic sword with one hand and massaging his beard with another. “Can I ask you what kind of name that is? It’s not proper grammar.”
“It’s like ‘Us,’ but it refers to myself.”
Eric sends a kind reply: “What if you were to put all of this in a novel?” But what kind of novel would it be?
The ekphrastic novel treats all feeling as the byproduct of art.
The aphoristic novel treats all feeling as the byproduct of mere wit.
The spherical novel treats all feeling as the byproduct of being lit.
No, a novel wouldn’t work.
I finish peeing off of the nothing at the end of an unfinished bridge, like the nothing at the end of the Bridge of Avignon. It’s snowing. Just as I’m done peeing, my gray cat Vic dives off after my urine, but instead of falling in the water hovers above the surface in the snowflakes, blurred, as if he were in a Gerhard Richter painting. My other cat, a bull’s-eye tabby named Freddy, stands next to me and watches.
Parable of Lifting
He held in one arm the certainty of his guilt, and in the other his well-nursed, righteous sense of injury. But despite such a load, his arms, it goes without saying, were never sore.
Inside song there is a beat
Inside a beat there is a clock
Inside a clock there is a face
Inside a face there is a mask
Inside a mask there is a mouth
Inside a mouth there is an O
Inside an O there is a ring
Inside a ring there is a bell
Inside a bell there is a knock
Inside a knock there is who’s there
Waiting with a rose at the edge of space
Inside no one there is a note
Inside a note there is a sound
I think I might hate poetry right now
Daniel Poppick is the author of Fear of Description (Penguin, 2019), a winner of the National Poetry Series, and The Police (Omnidawn, 2017). His poetry appears in BOMB, Yale Review, Chicago Review, Harvard Review, The Canary and other journals. He lives in Brooklyn, where he works as a copywriter and co-edits the Catenary Press.
Thumbnail: Constantin Brancusi