Monday, October 4, 2010

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Here are a few poems in the style of World War I poet Wilfred Owen on the subject of urban warfare, in two familiar theaters: commuting and online dating.


Our brains ache, in the salmonella corridors that confines us

Wearied we wait because the train isn’t coming…

An incident, the robot voice booms, vague and mysterious…

Exasperated by waiting, people groan, encumbered, frustrated,

But nothing happens.

Watching, we look for the dim light from far away,

Like reaching for the summer sun in January.

Across the platform, incessantly, uptown trains arrive and depart

Far away, like a lottery ticket one number off.

What are we doing here?

The quiet torment is broken…

We only know the light means train, train goes, and people go home.

The light of the train blurs past her melancholy army without stopping

Cars crowded full with limbs and faces pressed against the glass,

But nothing happens.

Sudden bursts of tinny noise break the grumbling din

More oppressive than the man playing xylophone, with whose hammers I want to hit him,

Mr. Brighton Beach is testing out his ringtones;

We listen as he scrolls through his choices: Camptown Races,

Phantom of the Opera, Greensleeves,

But nothing happens.

Phantom water smelling of wet asbestos drips from the ceiling—

We wince as we jump over a wet crack, as it gathers to a puddle of sludge,

Deep in the trench among soda cans and rats. Where does that water come from,

It hasn’t rained in weeks. Someone should call 311.

Is it that we are dying?

Slowly the train pushes forward, glimpsing the sunk faces,


With streaks of mascara; tears gather;

For seconds the doors stay closed, the train is theirs;

Windows and doors, all closed: even once in the station the doors stay closed,-

We turn our back to our dying.

Since we believe not otherwise in the goodness of man;

Nor in the industry of youth, or teen, or child.

When the boy peddles his snacks not for a basketball team, but for himself;

You think “I should do that, and I’ll probably make more money if I don’t claim taxes,”

For love of God seems dying.

To- night, or some night, the R will open its doors to me

Ferrying passengers, reinforcing misanthropy anew

The hungry ghosts, briefcases and thermoses in their hands,

Stampede over unknown faces. All their eyes hungry.

But nothing happens.

Ego Mos Intereo Unus

Hunched over, fingers scroll the categories,

Dark- shamed, yet hopeful still, I fill out the survey,

“We have the perfect match for you,” the commercial told the stories,

E-Harmony promised to unite our souls, but how could I convey,

The riddle of me to blithe mentions of NPR and ethnic cuisine,

“Would you consider yourself independent, content to be alone?”

My stature tall and Rubenesque, but no box I can check to preen,

Three hours to finish, and not a match in the tri- state zone.

Try! Try! Quick, girls! Love is a science to conspire,

At least check J- Date, find a doctor or a broker,

Even if you’re not Jewish, you could be his shiksa for hire,

When the dinner check arrives, his generosity is less than mediocre…

Ennui, it cloaks you in its thin sheet before you’ve shook hands,

Him in pleated pants and boring, you feel your insides crying,

Call with a sudden emergency, to your friend you do demand

So I can feign alarm and hail a cab, running, fleeing, crying.

But one fellow from the World Wide Web, we met through a site called Match

Brown hair and eyes with gainful employ, a mimic of heterosexual sanity,

We went to his apartment one night, he undid the latch,

But he locked and unlocked, O! The humanity!

What a security system, and for only Fort Greene,

And when he tapped his table and paced the halls,

I realized he suffers from obsessive- compulsivity,

To a car service at once! Yet another desperate call-

Homegirl, disregard your gay friends’ Grinder and Manhunt success,

Or the veracity of your friend’s friends’ story,

To the old Lie: I met my husband on the Internet

Ego mos intereo unus mori